Blog Post: Looking Ahead a Hundred Years

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I was talking to a pastor friend about the current state of politics, and he said, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out.” I thought that was an odd statement.

Then I realized something—something about myself. When he said, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out,” he meant in a year, or maybe at the next presidential election. I found his response odd because I realized I was thinking much further out than that. In twenty or thirty years, it will turn out. And pulling back to six months or even six years from now, we’ll begin to see the turn.

This is a great insight for coaching. Most of our clients aren’t thinking about tomorrow, let alone six months, six years, or six decades from now. Imagine the kind of awareness your client could have simply by shifting their time frame. And what if we press down on the time accelerator a little harder?

An Experiment

Let’s experiment with this: consider a client thinking about planting a church. Let’s look at one-year goals, ten-year goals, and then the hard to envision one hundred-year goals. What awareness can we create about how we want to start working today?

One-Year Church Goals

  • We have a gathering of over 50 people each week.
  • Enough money is received to pay at least a part-time pastor.
  • We’ve done one major outreach project in the community.

For one year, these are realistic goals. You might want bigger goals, but if you’re realistic, these are closer to reasonable goals. As you plan your action with one-year goals, you go out to recruit a group of generous people who might want to attend a new church.

Ten-Year Church Goals

  • We have a thriving community of Jesus followers, committed to serving Christ the King, their fellow followers, and their local community.
  • Many people lead as a team. Some full-time, some part-time, some as volunteers.
  • We’ve transformed a key area of the community, perhaps economically, relationally, or educationally.

With ten-year goals, there is no pressure to gather an immediate crowd or even finances for that matter. You can focus on becoming a committed Jesus-follower yourself, and then expand to a group of two or three key people. The three become nine, the nine become twenty-seven, and so on. You aren’t looking for just anybody, but for somebody who wants to call Jesus Lord, and live every day under his Kingship.

Hundred-Year Church Goals

  • We have a global, diverse, multiplying community of Jesus followers, committed to expanding the Kingdom of God, wherever life may take them.
  • The leadership is decentralized and built around culturally diverse men and women of all ages, filled with the Spirit of God.
  • We’ve seen miracles around the world as the Kingdom of God expands and creates places where all kinds of people can flourish.

This church will outlive you. God will have to show up and show off. You’ll have to learn to live with discomfort. Your trust of the Holy Spirit will have to increase ten-fold, maybe more. You’ll need to learn to partner with others, not just disciple others.

Analysis

I know I wrote these goals as an exercise, but I was blown away by how much the longer time shifts affected my thinking about how to start a new church. At the hundred-year depth, I am taken completely out of the mix. My gifts, my network, even my calling begins to pale as the church takes on a life of its own. These are healthy shifts!

You could do the same type of coaching with a topic like “Hiring a new employee for our organization.” At zero-timeframe, we might ask what we need and who could we get. Then pushing the timeframe forward, we might ask what kind of culture we should create to attract the kind of people we want. The depth of awareness is surprising.

Conclusion

When I first heard the dream question, “What would you do if you had unlimited time and money?”, I thought it was a dumb question. You don’t have unlimited time and money, but I tried using the question and found that more often than not, clients got new awareness. Not every question is appropriate in every situation, but sometimes we need to challenge our clients to think ahead, beyond today, beyond their abilities, and perhaps beyond their lifetime. The new awareness that generates will astound you both.

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