Cost-Effectiveness of Churches (2 of 2)

1 Sam 15 22 e

(Continued from yesterday)

Lk 13:6-9 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

I know this parable probably refers to the Jewish nation since it follows Lk 12:1-5 where Jesus taught the Jews to repent. However, it clearly shows the owner’s expectation of fruit may also apply to individuals as well. Make no mistake about it, God expects more fruit:

Jn 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

Nor is this an isolated incident, as both the parable of the Talents and the Ten Minas showed that God expects us to put what He entrusted to us to work and have fruit to show for it:
Mt 25:27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
• Lk 19:23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

What am I saying? That it is neither “results alone” nor “faithful regardless of results” for all times, but being obedient to what God called you to do for that specific time. I believe I am not in a position to “judge” that senior and renowned pastor. Only he and God knew what God had called him to do, and whether he is obedient. I do not know what’s in the heart to say what he should have done. Does cost-effectiveness come into play at all? As stewards we are always accountable to God as to how we use the limited resources He entrusted to us, but pay attention to His call or special assignment which overrides the general call.

Philip the evangelist had a highly successful campaign in Samaria:

Acts 8:6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing.

But an angel of the Lord pulled him out in the midst of his campaign to speak to one Ethiopian eunuch (Act 8:26-27). Not preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8:25), just one man. Was it cost-effective, not from our MBA mentality, but Philip was obedient and that is what counts.

If I have to make a choice, I would choose obedience over cost-effectiveness.:

1 Sam 15:22 Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

God knows better. We can use the best of our knowledge to serve Him, but be prepared for His changing our plans at any time. He’s the Lord, we are only unworthy servants. He sometimes asks us to leave the 99 to find the one going astray. Just listen carefully, as He may speak in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12).

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)