Can you determine now if the office space you are planning to lease will be big enough for your growing company in five years? Can you determine right now if the used car you covet on a dealers lot will be break down after the warranty expires? Can you determine right now how many customers your new company will have in five years? NO. Forecasting the future is impossible. Stuff happens that you can't anticipate, and for us "stuff" has proven to be miracles, unforeseen opportunities, and unexpected gifts.
June is the birthday of our idea. It's been one year since I first shared the twenty page draft of our mission plan with people. I spent hours considering what we would do in the first six months, and eventually extended that draft to include an 18 month mission plan. It's been six months since we officially embarked on this journey and I don't remember when I last glanced at the document.
That doesn't mean we stopped planning. It does mean that our planning cycles are shorter. Some part of this shift is due to a realization that it takes twice as long to do something than you think it will due to challenges that you can't anticipate and an unrealistic (inflated) sense of our own capabilities. But a larger reason for this shift is due to a realization that opportunities will surface that we never imagined.
Three examples of our 18 month mission plan going sideways for good are:
1) Spot on Blanding, our downtown gathering space. I looked for office space large enough for one person and a laptop, about 150 sq/ft. God provided almost 1,000 sq/ft and the resources to renovate it into a welcoming place people wanted to be.
2) Suzanne Bates Mueller, our staff assistant. I wrote a job description for an "assistant to the pastor." We got a partner in ministry capable of much more than pushing paper and scheduling appointments.
3) The Reveal, our monthly preview worship service. I looked forward to taking a year off from preaching and leading worship so that we could prepare for our launch. The Reveal, which crawls around downtown with a different band, venue, and style each month, is now central to our preparation for an eventual launch.
In the Bible, God tells Abraham, the father of our faith, to leave everything that he knows and GO. The startling thing about this command is that God does not tell Abraham where to go. God just says GO, or better yet, LEAVE. So Abraham wanders for decades, encounters challenges and opportunities along the way that weren't in his mission plan, and eventually arrives. The narrative spends a disproportionate number of words describing the call/command to GO relative to the rest of the story. Going, starting, leaving, taking the first step, we know, is the most difficult part of any journey. Planning, modeling, preparing, forecasting, we also know, is our way of putting off GO.
The next time you hear a teeny tiny voice compelling you to start something new, save the energy and time you'd normally expend forecasting where you think you'll end up, and put it towards starting. Trust me, starting is the hardest part and forecasting is futile.