Getting Along The Way

Recently, a young man approached me at church and asked if we could meet. When I inquired the purpose, he said he was deeply committed to ministry but felt God had gifted him with business talents. He wondered if ministry and business could be combined and wanted to talk about it.

I was both pleased and encouraged.

You see, that specific issue was one of the challenges of my youth. Unfortunately when I was younger I was not able to express my thoughts that clearly, nor did I have anyone to talk to about it.

The challenge: How do we combine business with ministry? Or is it ministry with business?

For over 20 years I struggled with that question. It seemed like it was always in the back of my mind, something to ponder but never resolve.

Some of my thinking evolved around three approaches to the problem:

1. As a business man how do I reflect Jesus in my work? Is there a ministry aspect to Business?

Certainly I could, should, would, tried to represent Jesus in my daily life and to my business world. There were times I succeeded and other times I failed whether in Graduate School, automobile business, forest products industry or real estate. My quandary was never solved.

During our years in Oregon we facilitated a successful Church Plant. I dedicated lots of time and energy to that project. I even went so far as to teach a 10 week class entitled, “A Christian Man in Business”. The notes from that class, so many years ago, recently resurfaced. I re-read them and while there was a lot of content and some good insights, it really did not answer the question of my heart. Like many things, it was “a good start”.

2. I can make money and give it to the church and “good causes”:

Being a “successful” businessman, read sustainability and high income, was another path and thought process I pursued. Make a lot of money and tithe to support ministry and grow the kingdom. I realized someone had to provide the resources and maybe that was the role of the Christian business man.

A number of years ago I met with a successful business man in Toronto. After explaining to him what I wanted him to consider, he began to gently weep. When I inquired why he was upset he said, “For 35 years the church has only asked me for my money, no one has ever asked me for ‘me’. You are the first!“

I shed a gentle tear too, as his response hit pretty close to home.

3. I can apply good business operating principles to the church or mission operations. That will help them to be more efficient and effective, using my business skills for the Lord’s work.

I have served on numerous ministry boards over the years, assisted in new ministry start-ups, and participated actively in the work of the church. In these experiences there have been many opportunities to witness inefficiency and ineffectiveness…..yes, even in ministries.

In 1994 the church I attended had stagnated…it was not growing. There was lots of discussion about why and what to do. Ideas actively put forward by various elements of the congregation included change the music, change the pastor, change the service times, add another service, increase parking and beef up the youth program. The church already had good programs, good worship, good people, and good location. So what to do?

We came up with a revolutionary and scriptural idea that not enough people knew about the message and the local messenger. In light of these ideas two paths of resistance showed up:

a. “We should not worry about numbers, we should just grow our people.”

b. “Creatively and effectively spreading the word seems like selling, or even worse, advertising, or maybe even worse Marketing. That is not what Christians do. “

The bottom line is we put together a top notch marketing and communications committee. The issues and needs were accurately assessed and a clear strategy put forward. The goal was to bring the Great Commission to our locality. In 2015, the plan and strategy is yet to be implemented. The church remains about the same size and the revolving door of new and prior members continues.

I have many more examples of trying to figure out how to combine the business and ministry.

After almost 40 years of considering the relationship between business and ministry, here are my conclusions:

~Ministry and Business, it’s all God’s.

~Each of our talents and assigned roles are ones of ministry: Ministry means changed lives.

~Whether our title is CEO or Senior Pastor, God’s work needs doing and the Holy Spirit will oversee it.

~Our real challenge is to “Bear much fruit.” Check out John 15:7-8.

Doing life with Trusted Advice,

Bruce

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