The Sometimes Surprising Price of Success
What happens when our people do what we ask?

No, this post isn't about growing pains as your church gets bigger and bigger or what to do with the budget surplus all that extra tithing is leaving you with (though if your problem is the latter, email me).

I've been thinking this week about the cost we pastors and our communities pay when people actually begin to do what we're asking them do to: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

So far this year, we've had a hard time making budget just about every month. And as a smaller church, that matters. As I looked at the numbers, I began to wonder what was happening. Were people giving less because of the financial crisis? Were we angering people and provoking a "hold back" response in giving?

But as I tried to see the big picture of where our community is, I realized we're actually just paying the price of success.

Recently we've sent some wonderful folks around the world - One family to Glasgow, Scotland, for church planting. One couple to Sudan to do medical and relief work for some of the poorest of the poor. Another couple to Bangladesh to rescue women from the sex trade and to help people begin businesses that will enable them to pull themselves out of poverty.

All these people have taken with them not just the hearts and prayers of our community. They've taken our financial support and the financial support of many members of our community.

In other words, giving isn't down. I have a feeling that, on the whole, we're actually giving more. It just doesn't show up on our books.

We started a Kiva group to enable Evergreen people to participate in micro loans to the poor around the world and so see the standard of living of some of the world's working poor increase. What can a $25 or $50 dollar loan do in Africa or South America? A whole lot, it turns out.

But that's $50 that won't come through our church's budget, right?

Of course, the cost isn't simply financial. These folks we've sent out represent some of the most committed, most Jesus-loving people I've met yet. We recently sent one of our elders to be the teaching pastor of a church in another state. Another is working in Pretoria. For each, a unique hole has opened in our community. Our community won't benefit from these wonderful, Jesus-and-people-loving folk anymore. But other communities will.

And there's more. I began to realize that often the reason we have a hard time getting folks out to things, to commit to serving here or there, is that they are already busy serving elsewhere, here in our own city. Our people are running community gardens, they are helping establish low cost counseling centers, providing medical and dental care for the poor. Beyond serving in places as far and wide as Haiti and South Africa, they are praying and working for the peace of our city, right here. Looked at that way, it becomes a bit harder for me to ask the question "When are we going to DO something?" We're already "doing" a lot. Just not in a way our church may be able to take credit for.

June 17, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments


October 23, 2010  2:56pm

What a wonderful problem and blessing all in one! Very cool to see God working through people outside of the church! That is what we are called to! To show Christ as part of the church and outside of it. Be in the world but not of it, men and women of integrity.

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October 14, 2009  9:59am

It's amazing how faithfulness doesn't make life easier, but complicates it in some ways. But it's still better to center our lives on obeying Jesus, regardless the complications.

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June 24, 2009  10:23am

How are finding out, and making known, the missional work your church family is involved in? Are you sharing with the church as a whole the ministry of the individuals? I rejoice whenever an individual in our group finds a place of service IN THE CHURCH, but am ashamed to recognize that I have not been rejoicing as they live out their faith in the world. I will be correcting this.

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June 23, 2009  1:24pm

Bob, I love that you're flipping the 80-20 principle on its head. It's not that 80% of your people are lazy, and you need to somehow cajole them into doing something. You just need to find out what they're already doing and see if you can help support that!

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Mike Zook

June 18, 2009  10:59am

Bob - Finally a pastor that is defining "success" in the local church in a more accurate way. What a refreshing perspective and attitude. Thank you!

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David Fitch

June 17, 2009  10:50pm

Great post Bob.It throws light on the continual challenge to rethink how we view money in the church. Peace

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June 17, 2009  3:23pm

bob i thought what you had to say here was great. i believe you are the first person that i have heard talk about the economic downturn in church finances, etc in a totally different light. its so easy for churches to want to keep all the "best" bodies close to home but i just love it when i hear of communities sending those people out - always painful but so blessed by God!

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June 17, 2009  12:24pm

Too true. What a beautiful problem to run into, with all its implications for ministry paradigms and community impact..

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Josh Crain

June 17, 2009  11:33am

Yeah...that should be "insights." Stupid inability to edit after clicking the "post" button...

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Josh Crain

June 17, 2009  11:30am

Bob, thanks so much for the incites. As a fellow church planter who's several years behind what you're doing (we just got started 10 months ago) I always find your writings and your wisdom to be refreshing and useful. I was just struggling with some of these questions this week and you helped me get a different perspective on it. Thanks so much.

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