It’s the holiday gift buying season and those who don’t seek refuge behind the keyboard and screen, must brave the retail jungle. It goes like this: I browse the aisles, find my Christmas treasures, and head for the cashier. After a few (OK, maybe quite a few) minutes I stand by a little machine that looks up at me, begging me to swipe my credit card. I do — a few tense moments as a computer someplace thinks it over. What will be the verdict? And then: APPROVED. I have been approved!
Thank heaven. I crave approval.
What that little dance at the register means is that the store with which I am doing business is pretty sure it will be able to get money from me. And that brings me back to my previous post about my journey to Chicago…
A Nut Needs Cracking
As I indicated in that earlier post, I’m not sure how I should feel about being invited as an early participant in a national initiative. On one hand, it’s gratifying to learn that we simple church folks have been discovered. It’s like being tagged, “APPROVED.” Hurrah! There are enough of us to be recognized as a “market segment.” On the other hand, are we a just a customer that needs selling? A plum waiting to be plucked? A nut that needs cracking?
The question about any significant market share is what do they want or need? What are they willing to buy? Based on this most recent experience, it appears that our hosts feel house churches need “millennials,” that elusive bunch of twenty and thirty-somethings that don’t seem to have any time for church. Apparently, we need help communicating with them. Is there a magic message and medium to reach the millennials? According to our hosts there most definitely is and they are preparing to make it available to us…and all segments of the church market.
Let me pause in my analysis and make it clear that the folks who invited us are very nice, sincere and, honest people. We weren’t being bamboozled. We were the guests of the most powerful of all creatures that lurk in the free-market jungle: The true believer. They are convinced, and not without reason, that their product is a valuable resource for the contemporary church. They believe that every penny paid for their program will convert to church growth and vitality. Whether they are right about that remains to be seen, but their motives in the matter are sincere.
What If It’s Broke?
Still, I remain cautious. Why? Because of the assumption that effective ministry is directly proportional to financial input. On the second day, our hosts asked a significant question: How many feel you could be more effective in your ministry if funds were not limited? Quite a few hands went up. Mine remained down. As I pondered the question I realized we, meaning the network of the Summit Fellowships, had never been constrained by lack of money. Whatever the network or individual fellowships wanted to do, they just did. If money was an issue, the lack of it wasn’t a hindrance. We had enough to do the job.
I think we habitually reject ideas that cost more than we have. We aren’t convinced that money and Kingdom effectiveness correlate. Effective ministry is relational; meaning the only program we have is us. It is the community of believers that communicates the Kingdom message to the world (John 13:35) and if that isn’t working, then no amount of money will fix it. That, in my view, is particularly true for “millennials.” We could spend a lot of money on a well-crafted campaign, but if we aren’t authentic in our love it will be for naught. Moreover, if we are authentic in our love, we probably don’t need the well-crafted campaign. Love speaks for itself (John 17:22-23).[Next: Is That So Bad?]