Scary Question for Ministry Leaders

A few days ago I got the tires on my pickup changed over. And since the tire shop I like to use doesn’t have a branch in the community in which we live, I drove an hour and half down the highway to the nearest shop.

But it’s a beautiful drive, mountains on both sides most of the way, river valley, deer and elk often along the side and in the clearings. Plus I wanted to go to a computer shop and do some price checks on a new tower since my old laptop, which is absolutely perfect for 90% of what I do, really struggles with video production.

When I hit “produce” on a 20 minute segment, or in some cases an entire one hour service, my computer is out of play for 45-90 minutes. Generally I can plan my day around that block, but in some cases, like right now when I am involved in two different churches often producing content for both in the same week, it’s a real pain.

Anyway, on the drive I listened to a few podcasts, one of which was a couple marketers talking about how things are sold online, particularly training and courses- generally referred to as information products. They were discussing the common practice of adding a lot of bonuses to a given product to increase perceived value, and make it seem like a good deal.

One of the marketers then raised an interesting point. He said “What if you simply planned your product- your teaching, training, whatever- around this question: If I only got paid for results, I’d do this?” To put it another way, if you only got paid for results what would your product be?

For information marketers that question can cut through a lot of fluff and eliminate layers of pseudo-bonuses which add no value and do nothing to get the customer the results they desire.

Now here’s the twist for ministry leaders, a truly scary question that rose up in my mind: What would you do if you were focused on mission rather than institutional survival?

Let me expand that at bit. What would you do, perhaps what would you do differently, if your focus was simply making disciples as effectively as possible, rather than trying to ensure the survival of the church or ministry of which you are a part?

Very closely tied to this is the question of what you would do differently if your focus was on mission rather than your own financial or physical survival.

Here’s the challenge: Too often we see the survival of our ministry as so perfectly aligned with the mission of Jesus Christ that we believe in helping the institution survive we are contributing to the mission. Maybe. But in most cases, while there will be overlap with any reasonable Christian ministry and the mission, it will rarely if ever be 100% and in many cases far less.

In fact I’d suggest that if we rigorously asked the question and followed through in stopping what was not on mission and only doing what was clearly aligned, much of what we do, much of what stresses us, much of what we resource with time, money and volunteerism would immediately cease.

This question has an extra edge in a time of crisis when institutional survival is an imperative for ministry leaders. Let me say this: It’s not wrong to work to ensure the survival of the church or ministry you serve! It’s probably a part of your job description in some way. However, it is also your job- more than that, your calling- to be a disciple who makes disciples, to join Jesus on mission every day.

So take a moment to ask and reflect on the question: What would I do differently today, this week, this year, if my focus was on mission rather than institutional survival? What would change?

And if you have the courage take the next step and ask “What should change, right now?”

Leave a Comment