"Facts, Ma’am, just the facts!"

by Scott Vandeventer, ECCU Chief Operating Officer
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

"When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"

If you add “Mamet” to this quote and Google it, you’ll discover: Conversion! Repentance! Confession! A transformed life! Read playwright David Mamet’s words echoing and amplifying economist John Maynard Keynes’ (censoring some, if you will).

[Instruction to reader: Follow this link and read the story. We’ll wait right here for you to return.]

What a very contemporary way of describing “repentance” or how to rethink your thinking. If we are in the church business (read: being and becoming the Bride of Christ), we are all over this type of thinking, or should I say re-thinking!

We are the epitome of those seeking truth, intent on finding the truth, and cooperating with the Spirit to conform our lives, individually and collectively, to it, aren’t we? We do this because, in spite of temporal pain, we get more joy living in the ‘light’ than burying our heads in ideological sand and hoping nothing icky happens.

Real faith, saving faith, sanctifying faith is expressed in actions that demonstrate its presence. It’s a wholesale commitment to the object of the faith—God is God and we are not, and we act like it.

So, what’s a church leader to do? Faced with an economic downturn such as we have not seen in our lifetimes, how do we think in ways that are productive for us and the flock? This is dangerous stuff because the way is narrow and the temptations to wander are great.

Some things we must do!

Face facts. Repeat after me: “Facts are our friends. Facts are our friends. Facts…” Take an inventory of your ministry strengths and revel in God’s gifts to you at this place and time. And keep those strengths front and center. God does not usually have a plan for failure, but for good. What is the good in what your organization has become?

Enrich and practice our theology. If God is somehow not as sovereign as he was when the Dow was at 14,000 and the giving was flowing, then its time to rethink some things. Your theology absolutely defines you. As Tozer put it, “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Get perspective. Trials are good. Life equals trial (sounds biblical) and the sooner we get over it, the faster we wake from the American dream and break the stupor. Thank God for his goodness in throwing, well, life at us—testing our faith, increasing our steadfastness, and basically assuring us through that relationship that we are his children and we are his church!

Keep doing what is good. Every ministry does things that it is uniquely equipped to do—things at the core of who you are. The goal is to protect and leverage these life-changing, light-producing things. If you think of strategy as choosing what you will do over what you won’t, these core activities are the keys to your church’s strategy for becoming who God has called you to be. If you haven’t figured out: a) your core, b) where you are headed, or c) what you are doing to get there, then, if you must, beat yourself up, feel guilty, but do go back to “Face facts.”

Stop some things. Every ministry has its sacred cows. I hear them mooing here at ECCU and at my church (but none of them are mine!). These are things we do because someone will get their underwear in a bundle if we excise them. Be ye of great courage! We have to sell these bovine hydrocarbon machines to the highest bidder and plough the proceeds under for a higher and better return on our investment (like corn, or is that a mixed metaphor?). Give them away if necessary, because they are draining the life out of your church, a veritable crustacean herd on your hull. They’ll whimper, so do it swiftly.

Ask for guidance. We all need more wisdom than we have which is why, by the logic of the Apostles James and Paul, we are praying for it without ceasing. Seeing as how we now have our theology screwed on right (see above), this prayer for wisdom is the behavioral manifestation of our humble submission to Jesus, God of the Universe and Beyond, that acknowledges his will in this moment of our ministry’s life.

Say, “Amen!”

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