There’s two types of people (generally) that I see in churches – those who throw themselves obsessively into stuff and those who purposely (conscious or otherwise) keep themselves on the margins where they can’t hear people asking them to do stuff. If you hadn’t caught it by now, I’m type #1. Sometimes I think it’s just because I’m from a small town and I like action – I’d be the guy who’d go follow sirens to a burning house or chase a tornado because it was more exciting than what I currently had going on.
But people (including this one) get really distracted with all the “stuff” they need to do – we call that busy work. And there’s always busy work to be done. And I think most church leaders would define “busy work” as that which can be done away with without anyone noticing – or stuff that can be easily delegated to someone else – or (in some circles) that which you don’t need a “Rev.” title to do.
But as I think back to my days in the retail world, quickly evaluating, firing and hiring folks in a franchise environment (which, in some ways, is what the local church is), it seems to me that maybe we need to broaden the conversation away from what busy work can you rid yourself of to what are you doing or not doing that is ultimately affecting the bottom line.
Whenever I’d sit down some store management and ask them about the bottom line, they’d always try to shift the conversation to stuff they were doing that they thought was valuable. Many church leaders are guilty of this same thing.
We’re pros at justifying our schedule, justifying how we spend our time, justifying how much time we allot to lots of different things. And, by the way, church councils or boards are also very good at justifying all of those things, as well as laying blame at the foot of the pastor/staff for where they’ve come up short. So, when there is a discussion about the bottom line, everyone just starts blaming each other or looks at each other dumbfounded about what other direction they could possibly go. That’s about the time they start blaming their lack of progress on the bottom line on the Devil or Culture or __insert_arch-nemesis_here__.
So what is the bottom line? I suppose it could be your mission statement, vision statement, etc. but hopefully it’s something deeper than that. If you’re living Old Testament style, I suppose it could be Micah 6:8 “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” And that’s cool – and I think that’s what a lot of people think the bottom line is – there are a lot of Christians and churches that pretty much do that. And it’s easier than what the real bottom line is – because it’s personal, because it doesn’t require awkward conversations, because it doesn’t force me to let people who think/act differently than me into my own personal space, affect my church’s direction, change my life. Because I like and feel good about my Micah 6:8 life – it doesn’t make me or anyone else uncomfortable.
But I hope, as Christians, we can agree that Micah 6:8 is not the Church’s bottom line. The Church’s bottom line is Matthew 28 and passages like it. Go! Make disciples! Baptize new believers! Rest in the assurance of God’s presence! And, just note that it doesn’t say, be Micah 6:8 people and pay someone else in another country to be Matthew 28 people. This IS the bottom line – and many of us are failing in our duty to make advances on it – many of our churches are running in the red & need leaders who can re-prioritize how things are done.