By Rev. Dr. Philip Huan
Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash
DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?
Strategic Pastoral Insight to discern God’s Purposes for the Season
17 Jun 2023
Since the Pandemic, when HR specialists recruit for an organization for management level roles, they consistently look for strategic thinkers and analysts—people able to see with insight and foresight! 
In our current climate of fast-pace change, we are confronted with a world of uncertainty and fluidity. We need pastoral leaders who are strategic thinkers too: able to discern where to lead the church to adapt, adjust and even “step out of the box” to help God’s church grow in vibrancy.
In times of change, it is critical that there are pastoral leaders who understand the signs of the times just as Issachar did:
From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLTSe)
Yet this isn’t something we are born with or adequately trained in at seminaries. There is a need for pastoral leaders to grow in strategic pastoral insight: understanding the landscape, discerning what God is doing, provide leadership in such as way that partners God’s call and work in the season.
“Yet this isn’t something we are born with or adequately trained in at seminaries. There is a need for pastoral leaders to grow in strategic pastoral insight: understanding the landscape, discerning what God is doing, provide leadership in such as way that partners God’s call and work in the season”
We can see that strategic pastoral insight thus comprise of 4 components.
1. UNDERSTAND THE LANDSCAPE
Those of us born in 1950s until now have seen dizzying changes. Even just from pre-pandemic times until now (the last 4 years) we are witnessing major changes including new geo-political tensions, new ways of working and functioning due to the Pandemic, and AI, just to name a few.
Strategic pastoral insight requires thinking through these elements with a lens:
- Which of our members “grew up” in these environments as natural to them?
- What kind of church would fully engage them in discipleship growth, including & beyond the traditional platforms?
- What kind of church would excite these members to invite friends because the church is deemed engaging & relevant?
- How can we explore, pilot various platforms—old and new—to create an intergenerational environment?
2. DISCERN WHAT GOD IS DOING
Despite all the changes, upheavals, even wars and tragedies, we believe God is sovereignly moving world events toward a culmination point that will achieve His purposes.
[Christ] created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether they are kings or lords, rulers or powers—everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything and holds everything together. (Colossians 1:16-17a, GWT)
In a sovereign way, all political decisions, every technological platform, every financial or natural resource, however used, is made possible by the providence & allowance of God. While not all uses are in line with God’s desired heartbeat, sovereignty means that despite accidents or ill-intent, all things inadvertently create opportunities that will result in working out God’s purposes.
Hence, strategic insight requires reflecting on the following:
- How will new moves create new pathways for the gospel?
- How will new events turn people’s hearts toward a need for God?
- From biblical principles, how could all these move situations toward what the Bible foretells?
These thoughts, when biblically reflected, provide faith-building answers! They give hope that despite the dizzying mess the world is in, God is sovereignly at work and that there is a gospel-proclamation role God desires His church—YOU—to play, because as,
[Christ] existed before everything and holds everything together. He is also the head of the church, which is his body. (Colossians 1:17-18a, GWT)
3. PROVIDE LEADERSHIP
In times of change and uncertainty, there needs be a distinction between principles and forms. There are many forms that have proven effective for periods of time. Yet, as times of change, new or adjusted forms may be needed to be efficacious for the gospel.
|SOME PRINCIPLES||SOME FORMS|
|Connection with One Another||– weekend services|
– cell groups
|Community Outreach||– door-to-door knocking|
– evangelistic events
Strategic pastoral leaders need to understand biblical principles and ask if current forms are the best in expressing those principles vibrantly. They should adapt, adjust, and design new forms that may be more relevant to the people-groups and landscape.
Thus leaders need to develop the ability to lead their people through these changes through:
- Comprehending the need for making church and gospel relevant to new generations & times,
- Conviction that unless certain changes take place, the future of the church is at stake, God may by-pass us and use others,
- Courage to step out of the comfort zone and try some new things if needed
Someone once said, “the gospel never changes, but the forms through which the gospel expresses must always change—for the church to be relevant”. 
4. PARTNER GOD’S CALL & WORK FOR THIS SEASON
“Strategic pastoral leaders need to understand biblical principles and ask if current forms are the best in expressing those principles vibrantly. They should adapt, adjust, and design new forms that may be more relevant to the people-groups and landscape. “
Many forms are indeed time-tested and work for many seasons. However, when some things change and generations change, there may need to be some tweaking, adjustment, or even radical change.
Look at this familiar & pivotal verse about God’s church,
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)
This powerful verse reminds us that Christ is the one who grows His church! However, the trigger is Jesus’ question and Peter’s answer: who do you say I am?
The disciples’ initial replies that Jesus could be Elijah, Jeremiah, and one of the prophets were the common thinking of that age—many people in Israel declared themselves as prophets and often brought a group of disciples into the desert, and this it is natural that they would place Jesus in the same category. But Peter declared a revelation: Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, Christ—Son of the Living God! This was an idea that ran different & counter to the existing ideas, and it was the idea that Jesus Christ asserted “upon which He would build His church”!
There are many interpretations of this, but I submit to that the spirit here is this:
When we receive a revelation of guidance from God, even though it may run different to the common ideas of the age, “stepping out of the box” to obey is the kind of posture & spirit upon which Jesus will build His growing, vibrant church!
If Jesus leads us to “step out of the box” to change current church forms in order to express biblical principles more vibrantly, and we are willing to courageously lead our people toward that, this is the type of posture & spirit that invites Jesus to build His church!
Strategic insight requires reflections such as these:
- How vibrant is the church in this season? If not, what is lacking?
- What do the people need in order to be re-fired and motivated in the current landscape?
- What changes, adjustments or adaptions are needed (if any) to move people towards that? Is there even a need to “step out of the box”? What is Jesus saying to me?
- How can I better lead people to grow towards that journey of faith?
Pastoral leadership today is a precious office and gift that leads God’s people and the growth of the church! In such uncertain and changing times, may there be an increase in the aspect of strategic pastoral leadership–understanding landscape, discerning God’s work, and leading the church to partner God in the season!
 Human Resource Survey Results by Fortune
 Original source unknown.
Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!