Cost-Effectiveness for Churches (1 of 2)

cost benefit 1

Q. A very senior and renowned pastor took up a pastoral job in a small church. When asked why he did so because with his fame and charisma, serving in a mega church should reap more souls and in return the mega church would give him a more generous pay, so it would be a win-win situation. Even setting the remuneration aside, shouldn’t reaping more souls be the primary concern of a pastor? His reply was that a mega church could afford to hire many powerful ministers and evangelists while this small church was one deprived of resources. It was in great need for revival but lacking a powerful minister to help them out on this. Whose statement is more valid, and should the “cost-effectiveness” principle be applied in reaping souls? It seems that the Lord teaches us that He is willing to leave the 99 sheep to find the lost one.

A. Just last week a relative asked me a related question – whether a church should review her programs’ performance. He said they are the largest church in the city. Whenever a Christian celebrity is in town, they would be asked to host a concert, drama, or evangelistic meeting as outreach. This consumed a lot of resources, and those who are results-driven questioned whether it is worthwhile. However, others answered that “God asks us to be faithful, not successful; so we shouldn’t count too much.” Who is correct?

On the one hand, many church leaders now are people in management or professionals in their secular career. They are successful in their jobs and used to management by objectives, strategic planning, performance appraisals etc. When they see the low effectiveness/efficiency in the church, they want to run the church like a business to improve her performance as an organization. On the other hand, there are “old school” leaders who believe that a church is a big family and relationships are most important. They feel so long as they are doing God’s work faithfully, God will take care of the results and they need not worry too much. Who’s right? I believe the answer is somewhere in between, not either/or, but both-and.

If early missionaries and mission boards counted short-term quarterly results like contemporary businesses, Africa would never have opened to the gospel. Hundreds and thousands of missionaries went to the “dark continent”, some with coffins as trunks carrying their earthly belongings, knowing that they may never come home again. Many died from tropical diseases within a few months after arrival, never seeing a single convert. Yet they were faithful and kept going, often with little results to show for their sacrifice. They persevered knowing that God called them and they need to be obedient. The same is true now for missionaries to restricted countries. You can’t measure pioneer work by standards for large organizations.

1 Co 4:2 says “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Stewards must be faithful. That’s a minimum requirement, but when circumstances change from pioneer work through development phase to growth, does God look for anything else? Is that still the only requirement? I believe He does, as illustrated in His parable of the fig tree.

(To be continued)

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