My friend and partner in ministry, José Bernardo, who serves as our VP for Portuguese speaking nations, has developed a high-level curriculum for advancing leaders in the area of evangelization. I’ve asked him for permission to condense and share this brilliant Biblical metaphor highlighting the importance of planning in ministry. ~Rob
Many of Jesus’s teachings reflect the importance of planning when it comes to Kingdom matters. The great banquet in Matthew 22 reveals numerous planning elements that make it a fitting instruction manual for our own ministry planning.
There is much rich content in this passage, from which we can draw a step-by-step plan, remembering that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Cor 14:40).
1. Dream about a feast
A feast is a vision-casting event. It is the first in a series motivated by dedication to a vision/ mission full of love for the community. Start by seeking God’s dream for your community. This God-inspired dream will be motivated by love for your neighbors, and from this depth of love will rise a call to action—evangelism.
Visualize the feast as well. Envision how your community could look different after being infused with the love of Christ. Your first event–or “feast”–starts the chain reaction and sets the direction for the long game of your mission and vision.
This vision should not only be verbally shared, but also daily lived out by leadership so that every member catches the dream as well.
2. Decide the size of the feast
Do your research. How large is the community you seek to serve? How much evangelistic material or human resources are required? How much time should be devoted to preparation, execution and follow up?
The king in the parable planned to fill the wedding hall and his house with guests (Mt 22:10). Don’t be afraid to dream big! Once the size is decided, it will provide the baseline to organize your actions as well as assess the outcome.
Start by setting a specific and measurable goal. Also consider and plan to operate in your team’s strengths and opportunities, as well as project and prepare to navigate weaknesses and obstacles.
3. Select the Guests
Despite preparing an event for a specific guest list, some of those invited to the wedding feast were unwilling to come. Others at the last minute changed their minds!
The host had a Plan B: “Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast” (Mt 22:9). It is interesting that he specifically says in the next verse “…both evil and good…” How differently might some of our evangelistic campaigns turn out if we invited more “evil” people!
For your own feast, start by deciding specifically who your event is serving. Then focus your efforts on knowing and valuing the people you are inviting.
4. Prepare the Feast
The king’s feast was planned to be an extraordinary affair. He fattened livestock and butchered prime oxen to serve the very best to his guests. In the same way, we should serve something of value to the people we invite. Make sure your program and the evangelistic materials you prepare are a delicious feast and not a tasteless skimpy broth.
Think about what your guests might enjoy or need, and spend time to ensure what you deliver is high quality.
5. Send out invitations
Effective communication was a central part of the king’s feast preparations. He sent out messengers to personally issue invitations, and when that didn’t work he enhanced his communication: “Tell those who have been invited, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner…come to the wedding feast’” (Mt 22:4).
Notice how the language is similar to Jesus’ own invitation to us: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Jesus knew the needs of those he directed his message to (the weary and heavy-laden), and emphasized the advantage of heeding His call (I will give you rest).
As you prepare for your feast, communicate how you will serve the heartfelt needs of the guests, and do it in a way that compels them to participate.
6. Count on your team
The king’s staff is mentioned six times in the passage as he gives out instructions and they follow them, even unto death! The relationship between the king and his servants gives us a lot to think about and learn from.
It’s important that your team members be empowered—able to speak on behalf of the church or their leader. They are able to do this effectively when they know what the leader thinks (Mt 22:3) and are well trained (Lk 14:23-2).
Be aware of the people available to you. There is a servant for every task; as the task changes, other servants are sent (Mt 22:4). The servants’ lives are so valuable that the leader goes out of his way to rescue or vindicate them. Finally, servants bear the trustworthy information based on which the king makes important decisions (Lk 14:21-22).
For good ministry to happen, the team must form a body, each member accomplishing their function. Start by organizing the work, then identify people and invite them to participate in their areas of strength. Most importantly, empower your team to execute!
7. Organize a timeline
You might be surprised to realize time management is a topic addressed in Scripture. The king says, “Come; for everything is ready now” (Lk 14:16-17). The feast was running like clockwork. Likewise, our events should be highly organized.
Paul admonishes us to manage our time well: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ep 5:15-17).
We all have the same 24 hours a day. Once you prioritize what is important and relinquish what is not, you will have the time to do what needs to be done. Organize your event into phases so you can map out your time and maintain control of the timeline.
8. Calculate the investment
The cost of the king’s feast was surely exorbitant for the times. However, he did not look at it as a financial loss, but as an investment of love to honor his son.
The Church exists for evangelization and its resources should be invested in the purpose of its existence. Doing this well requires a sacrifice of time as well as resources. But we are commanded to love our neighbor, which might mean spending more to love our neighbors than on events designed for church members.
Begin by listing all the necessary resources, then acquire each resource as close to its source as possible.
9. Distribute tasks
In the parable, everything that needed to be done was delegated. The king sent out his slaves (Mt. 22:3), then other slaves (Mt. 22:4), and even armies (Mt. 22:7).
The kingdom of God is most effective when everyone works in an organized fashion. Paul writes, “…from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ep 4:16).
Make a task list, set completion dates, then delegate the work to capable people who will carry it out faithfully.
10. Follow up on results
The king was proactive. He didn’t wait until the last possible moment to realize his original guests wouldn’t show up. He knew ahead of time and made the necessary arrangements. First by exhorting them to reconsider (Mt. 22:3-4), and then by coming up with another solution and inviting different people (Mt. 22:8-9).
Even after the house was full and the wedding feast in motion, the host was still analyzing results and taking action. When he found something amiss with a man not dressed for the feast, he did something about it (Mt 22:11-13).
A leader who only follows up on results at the last minute may have unpleasant surprises. Realities must be analyzed every step of the way:
Before – Anticipate what could go wrong and have a plan in place.
During – If things go amiss during the event, be flexible yet minimize damage.
After – If something goes wrong, fix it immediately–don’t wait until “next time,” the same way the king changed the target audience and communication in order to fill his house the night of the feast. After the event be sure to identify causes and avoid the same mistakes in the future.
Ensure you have the necessary information and make decisions to help guarantee the best results. As a leader, you must define indicators to be watchful for, solicit feedback on your plans, and most importantly be the one who makes the critical decisions and takes action at the right time.
Evangelization is such a critical part of Kingdom work. It requires meticulous preparation—almost on the level of planning for a wedding. And yes, it will require your time, resources, and flexibility as things may not go according to plan. But this parable gives us guiding principles to help ensure that the planning and preparation are successful and the results worth celebrating!