Monday, October 29, 2007
Profit or Prophet: Measuring Ministry by the Bottom Line
Beginning Dec. 1 where I currently serve we will begin measuring ministry by the bottom line. Everything we do will be weighed on a profit or loss spreadsheet. How often is ministry profitable? How often do people generate profit by raising money for missions or serving youth? Are we simply feeding the consumerist nature of our culture by making ministry another commodity to be bought and sold?
I live to make a difference in people’s life. I know where my heart is, and it is in helping people realize and go after their God-shaped destiny. I love to see the light go on and the passion ignited when somebody realizes the amazing impact each of us can have upon the world. My call is realized when dozens of youth kneel at an altar of worship to declare themselves fully devoted followers of Christ. My call is affirmed when I consult with a congregation and a church awakens to the fact that they exist for something beyond their walls. They exist to serve and save the world. The world around the globe and the world right outside their doors.
In 1992 I left the “for profit” world. I left to follow my heart’s call and serve God in vocational ministry. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are amazingly effective “ministers” in every vocation. There are those who serve God best in auto body shops, in sales, in executive positions and in political office. My calling, however, was to equip those saints to serve. To spend the capital investment of my life pouring into others so that they could do ministry wherever God called them. Essentially I traded “for profit” to be a prophet.
Now I am at the place again. Maybe I had been in denial up until today. Maybe I had not fully realized the direction of the organization, but today as I read a briefing on “rebranding” and saw that my email address would change from a “.org” to a “.com” it struck me that I would be working for a company and not a ministry. That is rather disturbing because what companies do is serve their customers for the primary purpose of making a profit. The profit becomes the goal, the reason they exist, the central factor in all decisions. Microsoft doesn’t measure changed lives and Target doesn’t count professions of faith, they count dollars. These companies even make a selling point out of their contributions back to the community. Most recently Target has been saying, essentially, shop here and by doing so help your community. Another example of commodifying consumerism.
Awareness always generates the need for a decision. Can I sacrifice being prophetic for profit? Can I measure my ministry by the bottom line? I hear the words of Jesus ringing in my ears, “"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:23-25
Gracious God, who calls us to be in the world but not of the world, guide me in discerning what is profitable and what is prophetic. In the name of the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, I pray. Amen