“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalm 127:1 This verse was part of my daily devotions a couple of weeks ago. I have been coming back to it as our church draws closer to the HCI Accountable Leadership Workshop next Saturday, February 2. To me this verse reflects how a congregation should be the church. Unless we follow God’s blueprint we will not succeed in making disciples of Christ, building the faith of those who enter our doors or in serving the needs beyond our walls. God is our foundation and all plans and decisions should start with Him.

Why do we try to handle things on our own? We have a plan in mind and set out to make it happen. We have questions that we can’t answer. We worry about how we are going to get the job done. Often, the lofty plans we make dissolve and we give up. Looking back at these times in my life, I realize that Jesus was sometimes pointing me towards a different path, but I didn’t hear Him. I was in a hurry to get started, to get things going. I didn’t take the time to stop and pray and listen for God’s guidance.

At a recent, HCI focus group meeting we had an “ah ha” moment. We were fretting over the details of developing a future leadership structure for Hope. We had invited God to be with us during our discussions and planning. We asked Him to make His desires, and His plans clear to us. But we missed the point. When we pray for something we need to wait and listen for God’s response. God knows the best way to move forward. He has a plan for Hope’s leadership and we didn’t listen for His guidance. Why did we bother to jump in on our own and waste time when we could have placed that burden in God’s hands? I left that meeting feeling assured that God would help us through the work ahead. We need not worry. He’s got this!

Jeremiah 29: 11-13 assures us that Jesus has a plan and a purpose for those He calls. “I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out- plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.” This verse was like a “knock on the head” from God. My prayer for myself and for our church is that we will make God a part of the decisions we face.

Last June, our congregation prayed for discernment and made the decision to move forward with the Healthy Church Initiative action plan. We now have a new Vision Statement and this next Saturday we begin visioning about the future leadership structure for Hope. My prayer is that God will be at the center of that discussion. God offers to be the builder and planner in our lives and at Hope UMC, if only we ask. The letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians has a message for our church too. ” I want you to get out there and walk — better yet, run on the road God called you to travel.” Ephesians 4:1. Let us continue our journey at Hope by praying for guidance and the ability to hear God’s voice in response.