How can we make plans that balance faith with realism?

How our plans and work intertwine with God’s means to achieve His desired results is not fully explained in the Bible. But here are some principles for developing plans that intersect between what we can do and what we must believe God to do.

Our plans can rightly aspire to as large as God has promised will happen. For example, God has told us in the Bible that people from every tongue, tribe, people and race will be saved. Thus it is appropriate to plan to start a church planting movement among a people group that up until now has remained resistant and unreached.

Our plans require a level of common sense. If our missionary career will be spent in Nepal, it is likely not realistic to plan for our impact to extend to Brazil or Greenland.

Our plans should require more resources than our own abilities. Many missionaries begin ministries that require no more than their individual or team efforts. God-sized vision will, in most cases, necessitate collaboration with other organizations and your supporters back home. In John 17 Jesus states that a major part of God’s witness to the world will occur as the world sees our unity and cooperation (Jn. 17.21). Your plans likely will be realistic but not ones of faith if you need no outside help to accomplish them. As one mobilizer has said, “Have a vision so big as to what can happen on your field that you must depend on others for it to occur.”

Our plans must rest on God’s sovereignty in salvation. We cannot insure that anyone will come to know Christ through our human plans. God alone can use our methods in a way that leads to people’s salvation.

God usually uses ordinary means to accomplish extraordinary results. In some cases God acts miraculously to bring people to Himself. Most often, however, He chooses to work through everyday activity. In citing Acts 27, Wayne Grudem describes Paul on a ship’s journey that encountered bad weather. Tragedy seemed imminent, yet an angel had told Paul that no life would be lost on the journey (Acts 27.23-25). Still, when the crew sought to abandon ship, Paul implored the military to retain them on board, as ““Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27.31) Paul knew despite God’s promise that the crew should do all that it could to save the ship. [1]

As such, this shows us that we should not neglect doing all that is within our power to bring about God’s ultimate plan. To do otherwise is irresponsible.

Our results will likely go only as far as our vision and planning. In his book Church Planting Movements, David Garrison notes, “A wise person said ‘you will probably accomplish exactly what you set out to accomplish, nothing more, nothing less . . . .You cannot assume that a Bible translation or Christian ministry alone will result in a church plant. If you want to see churches planted, then you must set out to plant churches. . . .If you want to see reproducing churches planted, then you must set out to plant reproducing churches.” [2]



[1] Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology p. 336

[2] Garrison, David, Church Planting Movements, p. 181

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