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Finding the Balance: Be Spontaneous or Stick to the Plan?

When it comes to how we schedule our time, personality probably plays a far bigger part than faith. While some Christians are more comfortable with a set schedule each day, others are more inclined toward spontaneity and perhaps don’t plan their days at all. That’s fine, as long as you have friends, colleagues, a spouse and a church that plan their time in the same way as you. Chances are, however, that such a paradise doesn’t exist this side of heaven.

How we manage our time is important. Time is the only resource that isn’t renewable, and each person has a fixed amount of it each day. Much like our money, what we do with our time reveals our hearts’ priorities. Time is also important to me personally; my first post on Boundless talked about the witness that Christians give if they’re constantly late to church or other events. Thus this question about how we should structure our time has been on my mind for a while, and I hope you guys can help.

There are basically two sides to this question: Should Christians, in both ministry and personal life, be more “led by the Spirit” or wisely schedule their time to make the most of it?

Be Spontaneous

I had a group of friends who used to complain that their church was too rigid. It started on time, finished within five minutes of when it said it would, and they felt that the service needed more space for the Spirit to move. This same group of friends loved to catch up for coffee with many different people, yet if a conversation was deeply engrossing, they’d linger too long and be late for their next appointments, making the excuse that they were “focusing on relationship” rather than being driven by time.

When asked about their beliefs in this area, they would constantly say that they were being “led by the Spirit” or point out how Jesus never seemed to have a day planner. Indeed, He would pray lots, teach as the opportunity arose, and do miracles whenever one needed to be done. Planning is for those without faith, my friends said, sufficient for each day is its own worries. We are human beings who need to sit at the feet of Jesus, not human doings constantly running around.

Stick to the Plan

Perhaps my friends’ attitudes were exacerbated by the prevailing mindset of the megachurch I was part of. Excellence was a highly prized characteristic there, and efficient productivity was the virtue next to godliness. Runsheets, contingency plans and half-hour meetings that ended two minutes early were the norm. It wasn’t that Christ wasn’t at the center of the church (He very much was). It was a love of Christ and His mission that drove the church to do as much as possible to draw people to Him and disciple those who came. The days were evil, they would say, and we need to make the most of the time we have. The work of the kingdom is hard enough; we need to do all that we can from our side to help the work along.

Caught in the middle of these two cultural mindsets, I often pondered where the balance really was that Christ would want for us. Surely both efficiency and spontaneity have a place in the kingdom of God and the life of a Christian, but I didn’t know which would drive the other.

Ironically, many of my friends in the “be spontaneous” camp have started to have babies, and they’ve become a lot more focused on keeping a schedule than before. Perhaps they realized that their previous lifestyle simply wasn’t practical for someone who had responsibilities or dependents. Interestingly, the church I was at has also started to incorporate more prayer meetings and events that don’t have a rundown, instead allowing the Spirit to move.

For me, I think that everyone has to come to their own decision about this, and I don’t think that there is a “right” way according to Scripture. While both extremes can have some negative consequences, I think our God-given personalities will move us more toward one side or another, and that’s OK. Just try to find a happy medium, and trust in God to work out the rest.

So what about you? Are you more of a planner, or do you prefer to be spontaneous? Any thoughts as to which might be better?

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