9: Specfic tasks ahead

 

In just a few days (May 26, 2005) a group of major leaders of the Church in Massachusetts will be convening to pray and reflect on the possibility of elaborating an operative Master Plan for the Commonwealth, just as envisioned in the original document. Already, the development process has begun through several presentations made to small gatherings of leaders on various occasions. Substantive observations and suggestions have been made and undeniable momentum has been gathering around this initiative. With each round of exploration, greater concreteness has been gained, and the perils and promise of this endeavor have become more evident.

As has already been suggested, some of the tasks and challenges that lie ahead are:

  • Avoiding tunnel vision – No single issue should dominate our strategy. We must remain encompassing in our scope, and address various issues simultaneously and in a balanced fashion. We should adopt a long term vision and remain systemic in our approach.

  • Identifying key leaders – Many of the salient leaders in our region are already overcommitted. They may not be willing or able to provide substantive leadership to the various segments of the Plan. New leaders will have to be identified and recruited. I believe they are among us, unknown perhaps even to themselves. We must ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and discernment in this area. They will require some basic discipline and initiation into the governing principles of leadership in the Plan. These principles need to be determined and codified. We should not commit ourselves prematurely to a particular leadership roster. I suspect these leaders will emerge gradually and their anointing and calling will become more evident in time. We should all see ourselves as lending provisional leadership while grater clarity is attained in these areas.

  • Determining an appropriate organizational structure that is inclusive, decentralized and which allows the right people, with the appropriate gifting and passion, to be incorporated. This structure must allow for the inclusion of new members as they are attracted, and for new leaders to arise as they are identified. Here, function should follow form. Task forces may be established at the very beginning, but the ultimate expression that our organizational and leadership structure adopts will need to emerge in light of the evolution of the Strategic Plan itself. We must not become wedded to any particular configuration, especially in the beginning.

  • Elaborating basic documents – A doctrinal statement that is both specific and inclusive should be adopted. A statement regarding moral and social issues should also be explored. Two excellent documents that I suggest for consideration are The National Association of Evangelicals’ A Christian Declaration on Marriage and For the Health of the Nation: an Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility. Clarity of belief is essential at the outset, in order to avoid confusion and unnecessary tension within our ranks.

  • Identifying a mechanism for greater dissemination of the Plan – After the first formal consultation on May 26, a way should be found to inform churches all over the Commonwealth of this initiative. Regional gatherings should be organized. A master list of potential participating churches and ministries should be elaborated. Leaders who have contact and influence with these ministries should be used both to provide names and, more importantly, to contact them and inform them initially of the Plan, as well as invite them to the initial gatherings. Four to six larger regional gatherings should be organized in the next twelve months. At some point in the not-too-distant future, an initial reaction and tentative commitment should be encouraged on the part of participating institutions.

  • Establishing a core group of strategists- Eventually, a group of individuals will need to be identified who will lend sustained, skilled leadership to this effort. Because of their commitment, wisdom and experience they will be able to contribute more significantly than others to the ultimate form the Plan adopts. They will constitute a sort of executive committee that will monitor the overall configuration of the Plan as it emerges, and provide strategic insight through key moments of the development process. These people will be diverse in composition, and be made up of individuals with deep spirituality, strategic skill, team mentality and a keen appreciation for the richness and diversity of the Body.

  • Adopting a program of action that is both specific and inclusive- Inevitably, there will be aspects of the Plan that will seem too controversial for some participants. Some may come to interpret a chosen methodology as inappropriate or ineffective. Others may simply not assign to a certain sphere of action the kind of urgency or importance that would merit their full involvement. Ways should be found for individuals and institutions to participate in the Plan at the level that they are capable at a certain point, without compromising the internal coherence or effectiveness of the effort itself. The Plan should allow several points of entry and participation, in order to enable the gradual, comfortable integration of a very diverse constituency.

  • Determining five to seven social and spiritual spheres which the actions of the Plan will target- The amorphous mass which constitutes the social and spiritual reality that we presently inhabit in the Commonwealth needs to be broken down into a limited number of fundamental categories. These are the areas which presently offer a significant challenge to the Church, the spheres of action that will require our sustained energy and attention over the long run. How we separate and name those fundamental spheres will impart its ultimate form and structure to the operational aspects of the Plan. This will be a key component of our strategic consultation. I submit my own, tentative list of possible categories. We might be able to group them in a different way, or name others: Youth, Church Renewal, Academia, Government and Morality, Media, Prayer, Evangelism, Family, Arts.

  • Establishing modes of association for participating churches- What participatory structure will be provided for insititutions that are willing to come on board? What organizational form will the Plan ultimately adopt in order to become a functional, concrete organization? Will we adopt a covenant format? Will there be clear membership stipulations and clearly defined levels of commitment, such as “member,” “affiliate” or “friend?” This is a key area for consideration.

  • Formulating specific, realistic, measurable goals for the next three to five years- At some point in the planning stage, we need to come up with a limited number of specific goals that we want to attain, in order to more accurately assess the impact and success of our effort. Perhaps during the initial Consultation one or two goals could be identified for each of the areas that we name as guiding spheres for action. These initially stated goals should be held tentatively in the beginning, as they might change later on as other voices come on board, and we gain more insight from God as we dedicate more time to the planning and reflection process. The recommendations of individual task forces will be critical here, but they should be open to review and further dialogue from the larger body of consultants.

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