Dear Missionary:So what is the alternative? Should we wander around "in faith" hoping God will open doors and do dramatic things oblivious to anything we might plan?
Tom Peters, famous for the book "In Search of Excellence", writes...
"Plans? Goals? Yes, I admit that I plan and set goals. After I’ve accomplished something, I declare it to have been my goal all along. One must keep up appearances: In our society “having goals” and “making plans” are two of the most important pretenses. Unfortunately, they are dangerous pretenses -- which repeatedly cause us to delay immersion in the real world of happy surprises, unhappy detours, and unexpected byways."
If secular managers are rejecting the old management-by-objectives movement, why are we still trying to do missions-by-objectives?
People with a passion for measurable objectives have a passion to control the details of the future. They have little tolerance for ambiguity, for the unfolding serendipitous opportunities the Lord may bring. Missionaries who are forced to write measurable objectives are tempted to “think small” so that they will be quite sure they will be able to be accomplished. Here are some problems with trying to control the future by precisely predicting outcomes.
- Measurable objectives are often not outcomes but activities. An example of a measurable objective might be to hand out 100 tracts per day. Such an activity is measurable, but we don’t know the outcome. Do the tracts make people angry, cause a litter problem, or actually are used by the Spirit to bring conviction of sin. Measurable objectives are often pseudo-aims and are merely a to-do-list activity and not real goals.
- Measurable objectives often reflect bad theology. Eternal outcomes for our ministry are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. For example, it reflects bad theology for us to set a measurable objective of saving ten people per week. When we say that our goal is to plant one church per year, we may get trapped into thinking about a mere building and forget about the inner qualities and true nature of the church. The church is a body of the people of God, whether meeting in a building or under a tree. Healthy churches are measured by the inner quality of faith rather than by the external quantity of numbers or buildings. It is heretical to attempt replace God so as to precisely predict and control inner spiritual qualities.
- Measurable objectives grow out of anti-Christian philosophy. Dangerous philosophies are often below the level of our awareness. The Western world is strongly influenced by logical positivism which argues that all meaning must be verifiable by empirical data. Behaviorism claims that observable behavior is all that matters. The secular world tells us that what we can see and count is the only reality. But Paul commands us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4: 18).
- Measurable objectives stifle vision. If we know our support might be cut because we don’t meet predetermined objectives, we will aim at goals that are easy to attain. We will set goals that will make us look good at the end of the year rather than goals that grow from faith in a God of hope. Such goal-setting is a dreary guilt-producing exercise. People often produce measurable objectives out of fear and a desire to look good, or at least not look too bad in front of others.
- Measurable goals encourage us to control and manipulate people. If all our energies are focused on a predetermined quantifiable goal, we tend to use people as mere objects to help us accomplish our goals. Leadership style becomes controlling when the task requires us to treat people as objects. Measurable objectives require leaders to control people and coerce them into accomplishing our goals.
Jim suggests faith goals that help us focus on the eternal...
While measurable objectives are often mere activities, heretical, and discouraging, faith goals help us to focus on the eternal. Faith goals are visionary and can become a driving force for our ministry...We set faith goals by spending time on our knees in prayer.
- Begin with yourself. Spend time in prayer asking the Lord to give you a fresh vision of Himself. Ask the God of hope to rekindle hopes and dreams, and faith goals for ministry. Picture with eyes of faith how your ministry might develop if the Lord would wonderfully bless your efforts.
- Dialogue with national church leaders and other missionaries. Be ready to enlarge your faith goals as you listen to the vision of co-workers. Share your faith goals with the team.
- Continue wider discussions in your district or country. What is the Lord showing you as a family? Be willing for many faith goals. Don’t make this a mechanical exercise, but an exercise of the family of God catching a fresh vision of his glory and our task.