Limited Financial Resources Shouldn't Limit Ministry Vision

by Jeff Tanner, ECCU Marketing Vice President
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

A few weeks ago in The Buzz, a question was posed: “When faced with declining income, be willing to ask the hard question: ‘Is it really the economy, or is it us?’” Let’s dive into a specific element of the “us” question by asking whether our issue is failure to focus on God’s vision for the communities our ministries serve.

In a recent Forbes column, Rich Karlgaard discussed the state of the U.S. economy through the perspective of the late banker Walter Wriston, who proposed that capital, in the form of people, ideas, and money, when freed to travel at the speed of light, “will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated.” Karlgaard believes that Wriston’s law can predict the success of organizations, including countries, states, cities, and companies. For our purposes, let’s add churches and ministries to that list.

I was thinking about this idea during ECCU’s recent staff chapel when Pastor Sam Gallucci of The Harbor described how this church of 20 heard a specific call from God to end homelessness in Ventura County, California. To make a long story short, this two-year-old church has catalyzed and is leading other local churches—15 to date—to purchase a motel where 100 homeless residents will be loved and transformed in the name of Christ. So The Harbor, now a church of 70 that already allows their homeless neighbors to receive mail at the church’s address and provides meals to hundreds, will soon serve hundreds more.

I couldn’t help but think about how the boldness of The Harbor’s vision aligned with Walter Wriston’s law. What seemed like an impossible call from God is becoming a reality because people, ideas, and money are being freed to move quickly toward where they are wanted and where they are being well treated. As a result, not only are the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of “the least of these” being met, but churches in Ventura County are holding their affiliations and control loosely to come together and be the Church.

Pastor Gallucci’s call for the Church is this: “Churches under 100 have to stop thinking about survival and start thinking about doing the impossible.”

What is God’s impossible vision for your ministry? If you know it, are people, ideas, and money being freed up to travel at the speed of light toward where they are needed and well treated?

And what does it mean to do that? It could be that God’s calling you to free up people and ideas through an open source leadership approach, which is advocated by Pastor J.R. Kerr in the Summer 2009 Leadership Journal article, “Open Source Activists.” Or maybe money is freed up by evaluating whether certain historical designated accounts are still aligned with your vision.

God could also be challenging your ministry, like he challenged Pastor Gallucci, to believe in the impossible first, and then tap into a network of ministry leaders to cooperate in ministry together, collectively generating funds for a specific project that could not be provided by any of the ministries alone. ECCU’s ministry development officers regularly consult with ministries about the organization of accounts to balance return, safety, and liquidity requirements so that funds can flow when needed. In ministry banking terminology, we call this maximizing cash flow. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that topic in light of the changing financial environment.

As you free capital to flow to where it’s most needed and will be well treated, it seems that the question, “God, what’s your impossible vision for our ministry?” becomes far more relevant than the question, “Is it the economy, or is it us?” Because in God’s economy, isn’t everything possible?

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