In city reaching circles there is increasing emphasis being given to understanding the differences between tactics and strategy. Up to this point when most people have referred to something as "strategic" they were simply underscoring the importance of the particular matter. Others correctly employ a strategy based approach to ministry such as prayer mobilization or to the employment of a particular evangelism tactic or to some other tactical methodology but fail to recognize that their particular strategy, and the tactic it supports, is not an overall and comprehensive city reaching strategy but is only one part of the whole. Some groups imply they are doing city reaching when in reality they are proposing or implementing only one aspect of a genuine city reaching strategy. This is confusing and misleading! City Reaching, by its very definition and nature, requires a comprehensive strategy that integrates each of the many tactics needed in an overall process that could result in redeeming societies and transforming cities.
Jim Montgomery, president and founder of Dawn Ministries, has written an article for the upcoming DAWN Report that I think is brilliant! He brings a needed perspective to the relationship between tactics and strategy that grows out of decades of global experience in serving entire nations in developing a single comprehensive national strategy that leads the Church most directly to completing the task of the Great Commission. I know that some of you receive the DAWN Report and so you will be seeing the article in the November issue but I felt the subject is so important that I should send it to you now. I am certain you will be challenged by Jimís perspective.
#007 = STRATEGY MUST PRECEDE TACTICS†† By Jim Montgomery
I recently met Rick Leatherwood, an OMF missionary who went to Mongolia when it first opened to the gospel in 1991. At that time, he said, there were only four known Mongolian believers in the whole world. Now he reported about 10,000!
Since Rick had formerly been a missionary in the Philippines, he knew all about DAWN and was a supporter of it. But in working with the young leaders in Mongolia, none of whom had been a believer for more than seven years, he faced a dilemma.
"What counsel can I give to this very young Church," he asked, "when they are faced with all kinds of ministries pouring into this newly responsive country and each asking churches to adopt their strategy?"
To me, the answer revolves around the difference between tactics and strategy. This is the fire in my bones as the Church enters what could well be our last century before the return of the Lord: we must move from scattered tactics to an overall strategy for the completion of the Great Commission.
We All Have Strategies
To do this, I think we need a better understanding of what it means to have a strategy for winding up this heaven-appointed task.
In simplest terms, strategy can be defined as the plan we develop to reach a goal. We all use strategies every day. If our goal is to get to our work place by 8:00 a.m., we develop a strategy for that purpose.
What might be a good strategy for one task, however, becomes a tactic as part of a larger task. A strategy to reach the goal of getting to work on time becomes a tactic of a larger framework such as keeping a job, taking care of a family or even, eventually, being able to retire. To reach the goal of a comfortable old age requires many other tactics than merely getting to the office on time.
Moving To A Unified Strategy
Just as we all have many strategies for accomplishing a variety of personal goals, so also are there many strategies that at least in part are related to the Great Commission. To start at the smallest level, I was once in the print shop of the Far East Broadcasting Company in Manila when a missionary came with a request for some tracts to be printed in the language of an unreached mountain tribe. His plan was to drop these tracts from an airplane.
He undoubtedly thought of this as a good strategy to reach such a remote people, and indeed it might really have been a good place to start. It doesnít take much pioneer missionary experience, however, for one to realize such a strategy would not lead to the discipling of this whole tribe. (Could they even read, for example?) He had a strategy for getting tracts to a particular area, but it was actually only one of many tactics needed to enfold this community into the Kingdom.
On a larger scale, a radio ministry might have a goal of making it possible for everyone in a given region to hear the Gospel. The strategy, then, would be to focus everything from equipment, financing, administration, programming to possibly giving out pre-tuned radios on that one goal.
What can happen with hundreds and thousands of ministries is that itís leaders can begin to think that their approach is the most effective way or even the only way to go about fulfilling the Great Commission.
When we analyze what it actually will to take to complete the Great Commission, however, we soon bump up against the reality that such strategies become tactics of a greater whole. They are designed to accomplish a specific, limited purpose, in a limited time frame and geographical area. Even if they were effectively carried out by ideal plans, they would not result in making a disciple of a nation and all nations-the literal command of the Great Commission.
This is not to say strategies are better than tactics or tactics better than strategies any more than to say eyes are better than ears or ears better than eyes. Itís just that tactics related to some aspect of carrying out the Great Commission should not be confused with an overall, comprehensive strategy for that purpose.
While there are many major plans to evangelize the world-David Barrett listed 700 of them in all history as of 1988-few if any are complete strategies that, if successfully carried out according to plan, would directly lead to completing the task of making disciples of all nations. Most of them are wonderful tactics developed under the leading of the Lord.
But, big as some of them are, they are not actual strategies that in themselves could result in completing the Great Commission.
Components Of A Comprehensive Strategy
After a lifetime of searching the Word, studying missiology, praying and developing and/or participating in every kind of evangelistic activity, readers of DAWN REPORT will know I have come to the conclusion that the most direct way to work at the completion of the Great Commission is to see the Lord Jesus become truly incarnate-in all that means-within easy access of every small group of people, of every class, kind and condition of man.
A geographical way to look at this is to see a vibrant evangelical church in every village and neighborhood of every societal strata, people group and nation in the world. A numerical way to visualize this is to see the presence of Christ-a gathered group of believers-for every 500 to 1,000 people in each segment of population.
The strategy, then, for working most directly at completing the Great Commission is to focus every ministry tactic on the goal of seeing the presence of Christ represented by a gathered group of believers permeating every unit of society and resulting in the redemption and transformation of each unit and persisting until the world is filled "with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" (Hab. 2:14).
A full-orbed strategy to reach such a goal, based on my understandings and experience, would have to embrace at least the six following components.
1.†††††††† Visualization of a comprehensive goal for a whole city, region, people group nation and for all nations.
2.†††††††† Total mobilization of the whole Body of Christ including all local churches, denominations, missions and other para-church organizations around this comprehensive goal.
3.†††††††† Vital information gathered on the current status of the Church including the number and distribution of congregations, the rates of growth for all groups, the methodologies proving most effective, the relative responsiveness to the gospel of various societal units and other relevant statistics.
4.†††††††† Virtual occupation of the target area by committed cells of believers (churches).
5.†††††††† Persistence in reaching the goal of saturation church planting and not just one-time events that do not proceed to ultimate occupation. 6. Resulting in the redemption and transformation of the city, tribe, nation or country into a disciple of our Lord.
Many excellent ministries have goals that fall into one or more of these categories and have strategies to reach those goals. But to the extent that they do not include every ingredient and embrace the whole world, they become one of many other tactics towards a comprehensive Great Commission strategy.
The Church Is The Answer
Point number 2 (above) gets at the crux of the matter of differentiating between tactics and a strategy for actually completing the Great Commission.
I emphasize this point because I believe it is only the body of Christ, that is the Church, functioning as a whole, that can complete the Great Commission. Only the Church can integrate and contextualize all the pieces, all the tactics, in fulfilling our Lordís command. Para-church ministries need to understand and visualize the whole, and then acknowledge what each provides as part of the whole.
Dawn Ministries, for example, is a para-church ministry. We work alongside the Body of Christ with one specific calling: to share the vision of working most directly at completing the Great Commission by filling the earth "with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" represented everywhere by gathered cells of the redeemed.
It is not our role in the Body to plant churches, to implement national strategies or to complete the Great Commission. It is only to share the vision and our global experience of how that goal can best be accomplished.
Other para-church ministries have more direct evangelizing ministries. Some are called to distribute literature to every household in whole countries. Some to show a film in every village and neighborhood. Some to preach the gospel via radio and/or TV to hundreds of millions at a time. Some to do pioneer work among the still unreached peoples of the world. To this list of major ministries could be added many more international efforts and perhaps thousands of others of a more limited scope.
Each of these ministries has a strategy to fulfill its particular sense of calling. But each of these efforts also becomes a tactic in the overall strategy of the whole Body working together in obeying the Lordís final command. Individual para-church ministries are not called or equipped to do city reaching or the discipling of whole nations on their own.
Each of these embrace one or more of the six points listed above. But none of them include every aspect of an overall strategy. Some will be comprehensive in scope, but limited to time-bound events. Some will be very effective in evangelism without significant results in gathering new converts into new and existing congregations. Some will be based on good societal and Church growth data but will mobilize only segments of the Body of Christ. Some will make brilliant efforts in providing for the poor, the homeless or the displaced without being called to other groups in the society.
These efforts are all marvelous tactics for following the command of our risen Lord, but fall short of being a strategy in themselves for completing the Great Commission. Each is a member of the Body, but it is only as the members are integrated into the whole that we become a living, productive organism.
This biblical analogy of the body, I believe, is applicable to a strategy for completing the Great Commission. Each para-church ministry has its internal strategy that can be represented by a particular limb, organ or function of the body. But it is not the whole Body. It is a vital tactic in an overall Great Commission strategy.
Looking To Century 21
As I look to the dawn of the 21st century, I can vividly imagine many hundreds of tactics related to making disciples of all nations connecting into one overall strategy that will usher in the return of the Lord. It is my passion and zeal to see every one of the millions of local congregations and the larger structures they belong to committed to the task of planting the presence of Christ everywhere and to welcome all para-church ministries that will contribute to their efforts. It is my vision and prayer that every para-church ministry will come to realize that it can and how it can contribute to this overall strategy for the completion of the Great Commission in our time.
So my answer to Rick Leatherwood, the missionary to Mongolia, in a nutshell, was this: First, get the whole Body of Christ in Mongolia committed to filling that nation with evangelical churches. This is the basic, overall, biblical strategy for the discipling of a nation. Then encourage every ministry to come in that in some way will help achieve that goal. Each of these ministries can become indispensable tactics contributing to the overall strategy of making a disciple of the nation of Mongolia-or any other nation, city, tribe or people group.
Or the whole world.
National Pastors’ Prayer Network
715 East Golf Road, Suite 205 • Schaumburg, IL 60173
NPPN FORUMóYour comments, questions, observations are welcomed if they add to our understanding, are constructive rather than critical or judgmental -Do not return nor edit the text; just the title, followed by your comments -Include your name and ministry role - Email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
#007 = STRATEGY MUST PRECEDE TACTICS
By Jim Montgomery