Spreadsheets and Spirituality

Quit weighing all the pros and cons of a decision. Instead, seek the Lord’s leading and follow that path.

This past weekend our pastor preached on decision-making, and while he didn’t exactly call us to prayer, he did delineate between spreadsheets and spirituality in decision-making. How many of us create columns—at least in our minds—when making decisions?

Pros and ConsFor example, when it comes to dating: Christian? Check. Fun? Check. Attractive? Check. Good job? Check. And so it goes. We do this for many major decisions; new jobs, new homes, starting a family, finding a church home, and more.

Our pastor made this simple point: When we lean on our own understanding we make spreadsheet decisions, not spiritual ones. Rather, we are to learn to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts” (Proverbs 3:5).

Very good.

It got me thinking.

Our church (in California) is a franchise from Texas. Branding is all important. Nothing can be done without Texan approval. Someone has weighed the pros and cons and decided that local church autonomy is simply too hazardous. McDonald’s in one state looks the same as in any other state—Golden Arches, menu, packaging, the works. So does our church.

Many congregational leaders (including ours) have also embraced the “Simple Church” model. This model involves shutting down most ministries except weekend services, small groups, and limited youth ministry. “It prevents burnout.” “It focuses our corporate energy.”

I can see the benefits of running the church along these corporate lines, if indeed a church is a “business” that we “run.” Branding and burnout afflict many congregations. Badly handled budgets are a blight in many fellowships. But I must admit it feels like spreadsheet leadership. I wonder if the Church in one location can, or even should, look the same as the church in another location?

I’m not wading into video venues or stage sets designed to trick the mind of the audience, though these seem related issues. I’m just wondering, perhaps out loud with you (my friends), whether our ecclesiology (our understanding of the basic nature of the church) needs to be re-visited.

To what extent should a local congregation have a local DNA? Pastoral leadership that knows the people, understands the community, and builds a congregation that is culturally and spiritually sensitive to its context, would seem to require spiritual leadership rather than spreadsheet leadership.

The wise will always look to the leading of Christ. The “wise in their own eyes” may find themselves distracted by the common cultural wisdom around them rather than the work of Christ among them.

Do we need a deeper, richer, more local, more biblically-grounded understanding of the Church?

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15 Responses to Spreadsheets and Spirituality

  1. Sam & Liz says:

    Yes. Nearer My God To Thee. 1689 – Spurgeon.

    Sent by Sam –


  2. Paul Simmons says:


  3. Truda says:

    Amen, David! … and so tactfully stated.

  4. Great thoughts as usual. We are working toward our first satellite campus (adopting a declining church in an under-resourced part of town). We are trying to offer our structure and part of our DNA while leaving plenty of room for organic ministry. Years ago I heard Andy Stanley talk about organic vs structure and he basically said it could be both, citing the example of nature. There is a structure to much (if not all) of nature but it allows for organic, creative growth and expression within those structures.

    Easier said than done is a church culture and we are learning as we go.

    • David Timms says:

      Scot, that makes some good sense. How do you discern when structure might inhibit organic development? When does structure become controlling rather than supportive? What are the core “ecclesiological” values that guide this important conversation for you? I know — too many questions! 🙂

  5. Arthur Pauly says:

    David, Thank you for your insightful comments. You have expressed what I have been thinking for some time. I just could not put it into words.

    I very much enjoy “Because of Grace”.


    Arthur J. Pauly, Jr. JD. Esq.
    Attorney at Law

    • David Timms says:

      Art, thanks for your note. These are fast-paced days where there hardly seems time to clarify core convictions about the church (and a lot of topics). Blessings as you continue the Journey, and thanks for being part of this blog community. 🙂

  6. Jana says:

    Very thought provoking, especially given that I am looking for a new church due to a recent relocation. In some I have felt like I am at a concert where I feel like everything is so scripted as if I am watching a entertainment show or movie, even through the sermons. I am at a point where I just don’t know where to “land.” I guess in our generation most denominations and church decisions are man-made. Just saying…

  7. Scott says:

    If we’re going to have one church in multiple locations I think we need to centralize the things that make sense. Examples being, admin, payroll, HR, vision, mission, values, material resources, name and brand if you will, but decentralize everything else such as elders, strategies, preachers, messages, worship styles. I abhor having the same message in more than one location, and don’t get me started on video venues. Different congregations have different spiritual needs at different times. Each church in the New Testament got the gospel (centralized) but each church got its own letter (decentralized).

    • David Timms says:

      Thanks Scott. That makes for an interesting list … and helpful distinctions. I wonder how much vision, mission, and allocation of material resources — even name — affects or reflects the DNA of the local church?

  8. Jan Neff says:

    I’ve wondered for awhile now: if the church is God’s plan A and He doesn’t have a plan B………….does He recognize what we’ve done with His plan A? Seriously, have we become the Pharisees of the church world? A pastor friend almost shut down his whole church because he found himself so immersed in the business of church that outreach was nearly lost. Now I have the privilege of leading worship a couple times a month for his small group of folks who are looking to operate in a different way. Time will tell where God will lead. I keep thinking what we win them with is what we win them to. Looking at our culture, I’d say we’re not winning them to strong discipleship…………..

    • David Timms says:

      Jan, you nicely show that the church comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and expressions … and all are legitimately “the church.” I guess that was what I wanted to highlight most — that each congregation has a unique opportunity, because of its unique makeup of people, to give witness to the Kingdom of God. Blessings as you help form this small gathering into a meaningful community of God’s people. 🙂

  9. Mark Williamson says:

    David, thanks for your thoughtful post. I was just reading in Mark, when Jesus heals the blind man by the laying on of his hands twice. It’s fascinating how throughout his ministry that he rarely performs a miracle the same way. Each was delivered in a way that best suited the afflicted. Don’t think there’s a business plan that can achieve that.

    • David Timms says:

      Mark, that does seem to be the case. Ministry was personalized. It speaks to the unique ways that God works in and through people. Thanks for your note. 🙂

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