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I don’t like this phrase because I’m not a great planner. I tend to nod towards the truth it contains, but then bury it and try and convince myself that I’ll get by. I’m experienced at ‘winging it’.

When I listen to God, however, I’m frequently reminded in a whole variety of ways that he has plans for me. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jer 29:11). It’s a great summary text of the Lord’s overall plan for any of us.

What about my response? This is the question I’ve been focused on in recent years, because I’ve heard too many Christian leaders and leadership teams quote this and similar verses to me and then appear to sign off their side of the equation, as if they have no part to play. Jesus calls us ‘come follow me’ and tells us this will result in him re-producing his DNA in our lives so we reflect him, so people see something of his character in us, so people are touched by his love and compassion through us, so when they rub shoulders with us, or even rub us up the wrong way, the response they get is ‘Christ-like’.

“Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: (the ‘D’ or ‘discipleship’ of Jesus’ DNA) and, “Love your neighbour (the ‘N’ or ‘eNgagement’ of Jesus’ DNA) as yourself (the ‘A’ or ‘authenticity’ of Jesus’ DNA).” The three DNA components , which I see here in the Great Commandment are mirrored in the Great Commission. In short Jesus’ plan is to re-produce his DNA in us and for us to transmit it to others, so his life is re-produced in them.

Something as significant as this doesn’t just happen. Sure following Jesus is a step-by-step experience and transformation takes place over a long period of time. Without doubt we experience a number of things along the way, which appear to promote sudden, or a season of growth, but even then I discover God had already provided the preparation ground. I’m a great believer in the adage ‘character is never produced in a crisis, it is merely revealed’, even though I wish it were otherwise.

So whilst when I set out to write something for our end of summer update under this title I had in mind prompting everyone involved in Christian leadership to plan for Christmas this month, I’ve been steered off my plans to address this much deeper issue in the depth of each of our hearts.

When do you plan to listen for God’s voice speaking into your life and circumstances? The Lord has provided us with all we require to grow in our relationship with him … the Bible, which is his primary means to enable us to hear his voice and prayer by which we can engage in two-way communication with him directly. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you’ll know there’s no growth apart from our relationship with God. You’ll probably agree reading the Bible for ourselves, and prayer, are at the core of developing that relationship, but do you have a plan, which results in action?

The Discipleship Cycle of listening, looking, living and learning is not saying anything new. However, it is proving to be a helpful tool, which encourages us to engage in the process God designed to see his plans fulfilled in our lives. If, like me, you’ve become tired by so many things you’ve heard from God falling on the stony ground of your heart and coming to nothing; or you’ve colluded with the weeds and allowed them to choke the life out of them; or just simply worried away the life-giving words from God by opting for a risk-averse life-style, then I suggest you really do need a plan.

For me, that plan looks pretty ordinary: time allocated on a daily basis to nurture my relationship with God through scripture and prayer. Once a week, specific time to reflect on those things I’ve heard, or which have grabbed my attention, when I begin to look, live and hopefully learn (remember the word ‘learner’ is at the root of what we translate as ‘disciple’ of Jesus. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

 

Have you planned your trip to the Baptist Together Mission Conference yet? This is set to be an inspiring day together for us to hear stories of what God is doing in the UK, and to encourage and inspire one another to respond to His invitation and join the adventure, according to his plans for us.

 

Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Association. He facilitates the life of the WEBA network team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.