6 : The Formulation of a Strategic Plan for Massachusetts

 

In the next few pages we will outline various aspects of what will provisionally be called A Strategic Plan for the Church in Massachusetts. We will try to do so as systematically as possible, but for the sake of time we will simply list the various aspects in linear fashion and rearrange them on some other occasion. It is hoped that this summary will merely serve to stimulate collective reflection, to stir the imagination and to provide some concrete thoughts that might serve as a point of departure for sustained discussion in the near future.

In order to better envision what the Strategic Plan pursues, let us imagine a weekend gathering of key spiritual leaders in the state, coming together at a retreat center to pray, get to better know each other and to reflect upon the current spiritual state of the region. During much of the weekend, they would work on several questions:

  • If we were virtually sure of success, and if we didn’t have to worry about financial or human resource limitations, what would we want to see happen in the spiritual and societal realms in Massachusetts over the next five to ten years?
  • What specific actions and strategies would need to be undertaken in order to get there?
  • What measurable goals and objectives would have to be established?
  • What specific resources would have to be enlisted in order to ensure the realization of these objectives?
  • What would be the overarching vision that would frame the various aspects of the Strategic Plan?

Once formulated in its basic form, this plan would be submitted for further consideration and refinement to a larger gathering of pastors and other leaders all over the State, to ensure that it reflects the insights of as large and diverse a sector of the general Church as possible, as well as to promote a sense of ownership and commitment on the part of the churches in the region. This plan would then formally be adopted by participating churches and bathed in prayer during the course of its implementation.

The potential power and distinctiveness of such an effort lies in its rootedness in biblical principles, as well as on its ability to allow the churches in a geographic region to work in concert, efficiently, rather than in isolation from each other, needlessly duplicating efforts. From the biblical perspective, it allows us to see ourselves as a corporate Body, as Jesus intended. The letters in the New Testament are addressed to regional churches (i.e., “the Church in Corinth”), rather than to individual congregations. As we flow according to scriptural principles of unity, spiritual authority and mutual submission, great spiritual power is released, and our actions become much more effective.

From the perspective of efficiency, the idea of numerous churches all over the state coming together to work in mutual cooperation, with a well defined, specifically delineated strategic plan could be revolutionary. This type of effort could be unprecedented, and might serve as a prototype for similar efforts all over this country in the future.

What a magnificent testimony, if a large number of churches in a state began to develop a unified identity without relinquishing their distinctive features or disrupting their denominational relationships, but rather covenanting together to see their entire state as their mission field! These churches would then set apart a small portion of their time, energy, gifts and money to make the implementation of this long-term strategy possible, and to rechannel some of their normal activities toward the realization of the Plan. Some of their training and discipleship programs would perhaps be reoriented to align them with the purposes of the Plan. Some of their aimless, merely programmatic activities might then be aligned with some of the regional, evangelistic activities organized by the Plan. The leaders of these churches would get to know and respect each other, and discuss ways of pooling resources, mutually supporting each other, and working more effectively together to reclaim their community for Christ. Their youth would be energized as they are trained with a specific vision and purpose in mind, as they are mobilized to participate in concrete actions to evangelize other youth, as well as the entire community. Prayer summits and pastors’ retreats would acquire a more purposeful nature, as the regional church community begins to see itself as engaged in a single purpose, and concrete results begin to manifest themselves. Well planned activities, responding to a clearly defined set of values, goals and objectives, carried out systematically and in sustained fashion and involving churches evenly distributed all over the state, would be so much more effective and impacting then the isolated, haphazard efforts that now characterize the activities of the churches in our region. All of this, and much more, would be made possible by de concept of sustained action, emanating from a coherent vision, executed in unified fashion. This is what the gay community has been able to do during the past thirty-five years, with devastating effectiveness. Only the Church remains operating in its plodding, schizophrenic way, the left hand unaware of what the right hand is doing, still justifying the words of Jesus: “For the sons of this world are shrewder in their generation than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8)

This proposal invites the churches of Massachusetts to soberly assess our present condition, to admit that our walls are in ruins, and to consider the possibility of coming together in an audacious effort to rebuild the wall and restore our lost dignity. The words of Nehemiah 2:17 and 18 are especially appropriate at this point: “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.”

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