We have argued that a paradigm of control over the process of advancing God’s kingdom leads to ministry structures that are not sufficiently flexible to respond to unexpected leading from the Wind of God. This is true even when in our hearts we really would like to be responsive.

If you lead a ministry with a formal organization, buildings, staff, and contracts with providers of goods and services, you have daily responsibilities and commitments that cannot be ignored while you wait for divine direction. How do we reconcile the basic demands of living and working in the world with the need to be flexible to God’s leading?

I am helped in my reflections by looking at the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses’ leadership.

There were two realities Moses had to consider:

1. He had to lead his people to Canaan;

2. And he had to provide for their well-being and security during the journey.

These are not contradictory but complementary realities. How was Moses to exercise his leadership responsibilities concerning the two areas?

God was very clear about the first one. God said concerning his mission to reach Canaan: I will provide you with spiritual guidance concerning when to move and when to stop. A pillar of fire will guide you at night and a cloud during the day. When they move, you and the people move. When they stop, you and the people stop. It would be foolish for Moses to continue moving when the cloud stopped, and foolish to stop when the cloud kept moving.

As to the second responsibility, there was no cloud by day or pillar of fire by night. Does that mean Moses did not need to do anything about the people’s well-being? Of course not. He did not need special guidance from God to manage the needs of the day. Camping space was allocated to families; provision was made for herding the cattle, for fetching water, and for all the activities that a large people must fulfill on a daily basis. There were also preparations to be made for the journey when the cloud moved again.

Moses and the people were not idle when the cloud stopped. When we talk about ‘sailing’ as a better metaphor than ‘powerboating’ for Christian ministries, we are not suggesting that we just sit idly waiting for the wind to blow. The Israelites were not idle when the cloud was not moving.

The issue with powerboating is not with regard to the operational aspects of running an organization; it has to do rather with plans and strategies that drive us to move when the cloud is stopped. Our model of ministry is generally based on ambitious strategies and timetables that demand we keep moving. They encourage skills related to relentless pursuit of results and target dates, and they undervalue the need to develop our spiritual sensitivities to the Wind of God. Therefore we may not be skilled at knowing how to wait: we equate waiting with lack of commitment, even disobedience.

If we conclude that our powerboat model is harming our desire to serve God well, we need to keep in mind that changing to a sailing model will involve learning how to be obedient as we wait. Moses was not idle while he waited for the cloud to move. But he had the flexibility to move and to stop as the Lord directed.