A couple of weeks back I had a conversation with a pastor friend of mine. He asked me about my future plans in ministry. I gave sort of a run of the mill answer and said I wanted to do some teaching, write a book, get hired at a mega church, have my own Christian broadcasting network in Orange County, become a politician, take over the world, and make my own brand of soda. He thought that was ambitious and wondered if I really had what it takes to make my own brand of soda. I told him probably not.
Often times when we (when I) talk about ministry there is a temptation to have a purely Business Mindset attached to it. We become very factual–caring a great deal about numbers, prices, and sizes. We evaluate ministry effectiveness based on our return from the investment. The line of thinking goes that an event or service is only successful based on how many attended, how much money was raised or how many people made decisions. When we speak about ministry this way I imagine God in heaven, making tally marks on a large piece of paper like he’s keeping score. God sits down at his heavenly desk and says, “Time for my tally marks. Let’s see. Billy Graham, four for you Billy Graham, you go Billy Graham! And none for Gretchen Weiners” (What can I say, I love the movie Mean Girls).
There is a different mindset, however, that takes the focus off of us and our limited way of understanding ministry. This is a Kingdom Mindset. A Kingdom Mindset is able to see with a different perspective. It understands that God is at work in ways that we don’t always understand. Perhaps God is not as concerned with our culture’s view of success, but instead desires that his people be faithful to Him and trust that he will produce the results that matter.
Additionally, when we operate with a purely business mindset there is also the temptation to turn our church into a “brand name.” We can become so overly concerned with our individual church that this obsession overshadows what God is doing in the world-wide Jesus movement. Don’t get me wrong, I love my church, but we can become so inwardly focused on selling our brand of Jesus that we miss what God is doing elsewhere.
During the school year I do a Bible study at one of our local Middle Schools. It’s a great gig because a number of youth pastors in the city come and do ministry at this school. Often times we bring flyers and promote our events. I love the ministry because deep down we all care for these kids regardless of what church they go to or which all-nighter they end up inviting their friends to. We’re happy to work together for the greater good.
This brings me back to my conversation about ministry plans with my friend. He had been at his church for a couple of years and was wondering if he should take a job a another church. He wondered if an opportunity like this would ever come up again and was afraid if he didn’t take the job, it would be a missed opportunity. I told him I thought he should stay at his current church. I also told him more opportunities would come and using the phrase “missed opportunities” sounds more like something you say during a football game. It sounded like something John Madden would say, not Jesus.
I guess all this started to make sense to me because I realized a while ago that God didn’t call me to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company. Moreover, he didn’t he call me to view my job as a pastor as a way to move up the corporate church ladder.
I remember a wise person once telling me that we shouldn’t view our churches as a way to get “there.” Because maybe the “there” we so desperately want is here. Maybe God is so much greater at orchestrating things than we could’ve ever imagined. What if we began to trust him not only with our lives but also with our careers? Perhaps that would influence our understanding of ministry and the mindset needed to endure. Perhaps we could put that in a book and sell a few million copies. Maybe we could get a book advancement and begin making progress towards creating our own brand of soda. That would be fun.