It was a brilliant plan. Not mine, mind you. But I could see that here was something that had overcome the usual weaknesses. When we discovered we would be used in Singapore to open a new corps, I surfed the internet and looked in bookstores to find resources that explained methods others had used with success to plant churches. Although I had my own experience, I didn’t mind learning from others. Finally I found a plan used by a church in California that was the best approach I had ever seen. And because Singapore is particularly open to ideas from the United States it seemed that this was the way to go.
Upon arrival I started explaining the plan. I put together a little booklet so others could see how it worked. Intriguing, they said. It might work, others commented. I studied it myself over and over and looked to see if it would fit in the local context. Yes, it would work. Now, let’s move ahead.
But complications set in. It is absolutely unimportant to outline what these were. First, there was one major setback. Never mind, said I to myself, we’ll adapt. Every battle plan must have flexibility. Then there was another setback. And another. And another until finally there was total collapse. The legendary little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike could have been no more industrious than I was in finding ways to plug holes while at the same time seeking to forge ahead to certain victory. Alas! it was not to be.
In similar situations like this, my normally encouraging wife says I can be impetuous, perhaps thickheaded. I answer that it is being focused, determined. I fear I discovered focused thickheadedness.
There was a difference this time, however, because through my life I have learned about myself. So it was that with this plan I began praying early on that if this was something that God could not bless, He would make certain that it failed. I meant this prayer, all the while hoping that He would find something worthwhile in it.
There have been too many times in my life that I had my brilliant plans, convinced others of the rightness of a particular way and then as something of an afterthought, asked God to bless it all. I should have sought Him from the very beginning, been ready to change as He made His way known. Perhaps it took living in a new culture and being aware that basic assumptions I had lived with all my life might not be valid here made me think that I had to change my approach.
In Acts 16, the writer tells us that Paul had a plan to enter the province of Asia but God blocked the way. He was not to go there, not now anyway. He was to proceed the opposite way to Europe. Nor did the new way appear to be clearly blessed. The first results were rather meager. There weren’t thousands waiting to turn to Christ, throngs of people lining the roads with signs that said, “Europe Welcomes Paul”. Instead he finds Lydia his only convert, and she was something of a half-convert already. And then in Philippi he and Silas are met with a riot, beaten and wrongfully imprisoned. I wonder if he thought, “I should have gone to Asia”? But God was already working out His purposes in Paul’s life and the world as a whole. The roadblock Paul found in front of him was to take him in a way of God’s choosing.
That leaves me in Singapore with my plans in shambles. But I have learned from the past and from the Word that it is the wisest thing to walk away from the ruins. In this failure I have found a kind of joy. I pleaded with God to withhold His blessing if this was something He could not bless. And sure enough, He has. That must mean He is leading in another way that He can bless. Learning from Paul, it may be a way that seems strange, that is not met with immediate success. That’s not for me to work out. My obligation hasn’t changed from the day I accepted the call of God in my life. I am simply to follow.
Let’s see what happens next.
Lord, lead on.