Yesterday I wrote about the two ways of living that David Brooks outlined in the New York Times: “The Well-Planned Life” (WPL) or “The Summoned Life” (SL). And I asked which of the two was most biblical.
Just to recap, the person who lives a WPL takes time to find a clear life-purpose, then makes appropriate decisions about how to spend their time and use their talents. The person who lives the SL rejects the possibility of long-term life-planning, but as situations and circumstances arise, they ask, “What are these circumstances summoning me to do?” In fact, I think it would be more accurate to call this “The Reactive Life” (RL).I believe that every Christian should live a WPL. No Christian should be just a victim of events, a helpless cork tossed to and fro on the ever-changing ocean of circumstances and other people’s expectations. We must take the time to prayerfully seek a life-purpose. God put each of us here for a specific reason, and we shouldn’t just drift from day to day, from week to week, from year to year, frittering away precious time without any sense of direction. We must take our time and our talents to God and ask Him what He will have us to do…and wait for His guidance. That simple act would save many Christians from many years of pointless ping-ponging around from job to job, from passion to passion, from person to person, and from place to place. If you read the original article you will know that Clayton Christensen advocates the combination of “a Christian spirit with a business methodology” in order to live a WPL. I’d like to deal with that idea at greater length in a future post, but I agree with the principle, and with the priority of putting Christian spirit before business methodology. HOWEVER, there are dangers in the WPL, especially in the selfish neglect of important relationships, as Brooks also hinted at. The person living the WPL can become insensitive to circumstances, events, and people around him. “I don’t care if my neighbor is sick…I have a plan and I’m sticking to it.” He can become frustrated with anyone and anything which interrupts his plan or renders his day “inefficient.” He can become deaf to God’s voice speaking to him through His Word, and through providence as his life unfolds. While he may have got his life-plan from God, he may neglect to get his everyday-plan from God. Everybody needs to allow an element of RL in their life. So, I suppose I’m joining David Brooks on the fence. However, I’m definitely falling over on the WPL side, as I believe it is more biblical than the RL. Consider Christ’s life. He did not get up every day and wonder, “What am I doing here?” or “Where am I going?” No, He had a very definite life-plan (maybe we should say death-plan), which He received from His Father. However, He also had the right balance between the WPL and the RL. While there were times when he would not be deflected by people’s demands and the pressure of unpredicted events, there were other times when he did respond to pressing need and urgent circumstances. If I can apply this especially to pastors, I would say that too many pastors live a Reactive Life. We often go from day-to-day just responding to events, phone calls, emails and others’ agendas. We may have a weekly plan which involves preparing two or three sermons. However, we don’t usually think much further ahead than that. I would encourage pastors to think more long-term, not just about their congregation but about their own lives. Take your time, your talents, your interests and your schedule to the Lord and ask Him to help you plan a long-term project. It might be to master Greek or Hebrew, to research a favorite subject, to do a Th.M. or D.Min., to write a book, to evangelize a particular place or group of people, to mentor a young man, etc. Prayerfully pick a project and allocate fixed and non-negotiable time to it every week. Let your family and elders know your plan and seek their cooperation. The person who lives the well-planned life is better-equipped to react to the unplanned events of life.