If you had been in denominational work for the last 24 years like I have been, I bet you’d wish you could have a nickel for every time you read a planning document that read “By the year 2020, we will…(insert goal).”

As far back as I can remember, we Baptists have been saying we were going to get some serious things done by the year 2020. We Baptists like to plan. We also liked the cool marketing for 2020. How could we have resisted the year 2020 as a year talk about vision? Get it, vision…20/20?

You don’t need glasses to see the vision goals almost write themselves! And it wasn’t just the Baptists. Do a Google search sometime and see all the “Vision 2020” planning from almost every kind of organization from years past!

I saw a meme the other day that described it hilariously:

Humans in January: It’s 2020, the year of vision!

2020 in December: Betcha didn’t see that coming!

We humans put a lot of stock in our plans for 2020. And 2020 gave us all a heavy dose of Covid-19 reality! Though we are starting to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, this should be everyone’s memory verse for 2021:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring ​what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4: 13-16).

We humans, and all our plans, are like a puff of smoke, gone as fast as we appear. Let us all humble ourselves before the Lord, remembering what we learned this year.

So, having said all that, why am I writing about goal setting at the end of 2020? If we have learned anything this year isn’t it that we may make our plans, but they are subject to change? And more than we would like, haven’t we found our plans this year are subject to cancellation?

The Lord knew all this, and surely He intended for us to take away a lesson: We need to be humble as we plan, we don’t know what the Lord will allow. I don’t believe this verse in James is saying we shouldn’t set goals. We are called to do the work of the ministry; ministry takes planning.

This may not be a verse about planning, but I think the Thessalonians set the ministry standard for us:

“We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3).

While we humbly set our goals, let’s include faith. Let’s work while being motivated by love. If we plan, we don’t boast. We leave room for God’s hand.

Four big goals for 2021

In 2019, Oklahoma Baptists voted in our annual meeting to adopt four big goals. I have quoted the copy from the resolutions containing these goals. The goals are still valid and worthy. I think they are healthy and not boastful. They are based on love; they are motivated by faith. They seek to honor the Lord.

These goals are attainable if each church will do their part to do the work of faith to achieve them. Take some time to reflect on the goals and explore ideas with your church’s leadership for how you can work toward them. It is likely your church has already done all your annual planning for 2021, but as you look at the goals, I think you will find they are compatible with your current planning.

Goal one: Increase worship attendance

“While the population of Oklahoma is increasing, Oklahoma Baptists’ weekly church attendance is in decline. Assembling together is a key indicator of healthy disciples. Gathering is central to the ministry of a local church. Pursuing this goal will encourage churches to improve intentionality, quality and consistency in weekly ministries. This goal will also challenge us to start new churches to respond to the current demographic realities of our state. We will increase the number of people who gather weekly with our churches.”

Goal two: Increase baptisms

“This baptism goal pushes the priority of evangelism; it also feeds our focus on discipleship and church membership. Baptism is the visible sign of Gospel Advance, and it provides a key indicator of the effectiveness of all ministries within the church. We embrace brokenness in order to lead people into the new life in Christ that baptism proclaims.”

Goal three: Increase missions sending

“Our mission of Gospel Advance calls us to go to the nations. The missionary heart is an indicator of healthy disciples and healthy churches. We will pray for, call out and encourage Oklahoma Baptists to go as journeymen and career missionaries. This focus on sending more journeymen and career missionaries through the IMB will ultimately spill over to increased sending through other pathways. We must elevate missions education to reach this goal. Falls Creek, Oklahoma Baptist University and Baptist Collegiate Ministries play vital roles in mission sending, but the local church must be the primary catalyst.”

Goal four: Increase Cooperative Program giving

“The Bible teaches us that cooperative missions giving is a key indicator of spiritual health and Christian fellowship. When the Apostle Paul expresses gratitude for the church at Philippi and their ‘participation in the Gospel,’ he is speaking in part about their strong financial support. Our Oklahoma Baptist fellowship in the gospel is expressed, in part, through our Cooperative Program giving. Increased giving corresponds to increased attendance, baptisms and sending.”

“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3).