Strategic, Ambitious Planning
June 27, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
At Oak Hills we say our mission is “longing to know and make known the astonishing grace of God.” Every year I seek to take time to step back and take stock of how we are doing as a church, in light of our mission. We have many reasons to give glory to God for his work among us to fulfill this mission. We also have room to grow, as we always will this side of heaven. This summer, I want to encourage our growth in “longing” by looking at pictures of longing from Scripture, praying that we would be challenged and inspired. This is part three of a multi-part series.
Did you know that Paul’s letter to the Romans is a strategic, gospel-advancing, fund-raising letter? Typically, when we think of Romans, we think of the great theological unpacking of the riches of the gospel. And Romans does contain some of the richest explanations of the justification by faith and the power of grace in all of the New Testament.
Paul dives deeply into the truths of the gospel, however, in order to bring peace and unity to the church at Rome, which was conflicted by the ethnic divide between Jews and Gentiles. Still, peace and unity were not Paul’s end goal. He states his purpose in writing this letter in chapter 15. He says, “I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while” (v. 24). Paul explains his passion to go to Spain a few verses earlier: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation” (v. 20). Paul had a personal ambition to preach Christ to those who have never heard of Christ.
Paul writes to the church at Rome so that he can unite them around the truth and power of the gospel in order that they would be ready to support him on his missionary efforts. In Romans 15, Paul also lays out his plans to travel to Jerusalem first, “bringing aid to the saints” (v. 25), before he heads to Rome. Romans gives us a window into how Paul approached ministry. If our ambition at Oak Hills is to know and make known God’s astonishing grace, we can learn from Paul’s example.
- Paul was driven by ambition. It is good and honoring to Christ to have ambitions like preaching the gospel where Christ has not been named. This is part of Christ’s workmanship of us and preparation of good works for us (Eph. 2:10). He gifts and equips us for his labors. This ambition ought to grip our hearts and direct the choices we make in the use of our time, money, and energy. Paul was clear on the ambition that directed his apostolic ministry. Are we clear on our ambition?
- Paul was able to evaluate his ministry in light of his ambition. He says, “From Jerusalem and all the way around Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19). Paul’s first three missionary journeys were not haphazard efforts to preach the gospel wherever he found himself. He had a ministry to fulfill. He concludes, “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God” (v. 17). Can we be “proud” of our work for God?
- Paul’s ambition led him to make strategic, ministry plans several years out. Paul’s plan to go to Spain would not happen for several years. He was in Corinth, Greece, when he wrote Romans. He was to travel to Jerusalem first, which would take several months. And then he would travel to Rome (another several month trip), stay for a while with the Romans (“that I may reap some harvest among you as well” 1:13), and then go to Spain. Plans for Spain would consume Paul for several years. Of course, his plans received a twist when he traveled to Rome under arrest and was in prison for a couple of years in Rome. Scholars believe, however, that Paul was released from that imprisonment and still made it to Spain. Paul’s strategic planning took into consideration the state of the church at Rome. They needed to be unified around the gospel before they could support him in his ministry. Paul made strategic plans, mapping out activity several years out, so that he could accomplish his ambition. What strategic plans are we making?
As a church and as individuals, we can learn from Paul’s example. An ambition for Christ ought to shape and lead our plans for the future.