Outcomes vs. Process — which is God more concerned with?
As a consultant, many times the goal with a ministry client is to increase outcomes. In other words, raise more money, attract new donors, and increase board involvement. These are things that are good, positively impact the ministry, and produce results that propel the organization to a higher level of results.
Is there anything wrong with making measurable outcomes our focus? Is God pleased when we increase our results and impact? Isn't this really obeying our mission statement and why we exist?
The answer to all of those is a resounding yes! There is nothing ungodly about being measurable. It is about accountability, being effective, and very importantly, good stewardship.
As we look throughout scripture we can see planning and results. We can see God looking back at his creation and evaluating it saying, it is good! We also see Paul growing the church in numbers and cities. We also see Paul discussing how people should be giving in order to bring results in 2nd Corinthians, Chapters 8 and 9.
So looking for the appropriate outcomes is indeed part of our calling to bring people to Jesus, and to carry out our calling as believers to take care of the widow and orphans, feed and shelter the poor, visit the prisoner, etc.
Now let's consider an age-old saying that creates a tension in our ministries: "God did not call us to be successful, he called us to be faithful."
Over the last 20 years or so, as we moved from the Builder generation to the Boomer generation, the need for accountability and more effective infrastructure in ministries brought about the move toward measurable outcomes. This was argued against by mostly the previous generation who felt we were turning toward the "world's measurement" and like the "business model". And they were correct. There have been a number of crossover philosophies and business strategies that have come to the non-profit world to "save" us in our efforts to achieve our missions.
So how do we stay "faithful" while we are building our organizations and achieving our goals? It all comes down to what we are faithful to. And that I believe is the Process and our journey as steward leaders.
Process could be described as "who we are while we are carrying out kingdom work." It is about us, in relationship to Jesus, this is God's main concern. Who we are as followers of his son Jesus, is what sets us apart. Apart from what? Apart from the world, the greed, the "ends justifies the means" mentality, and the preaching one thing, but doing another, leader. I am not implying perfection here. We are all sinners and fall short. But we must agree that the soul of the steward leader is of utmost importance to God.
In fact, you could build a case that God can run and fund our ministries without us. He is most concerned with the people we serve, and us, the people who do the serving.
This is called "soul care" by a growing movement referred to as spiritual direction. It is about leaders in the church and parachurch becoming more aware of their spiritual journey, and realizing God is concerned with them, not just their budgets, full churches, and achieving ministry milestones.
So what do YOU think my fellow steward leaders? Can you find the balance between outcomes and process? Do you find a peace with God when you take both to him in your prayer time? It is a good question to ask today; because I am pretty sure someday God will be asking similar questions of you and me.
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