Pastors and Ministers: Do We Care About the Return on Our Investment of Time, Talent, Treasure?

Devotional Thought of The Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

6  I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7  So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (ASV)

215 The ploughshare that breaks up the earth and opens up the furrow sees neither the seed nor the harvest.  (1)

In Business, often you make decisions based on a data that provides a potential “ROI”.  Te acronym means, “return on investment”.  Here is a quick summary.

You only have the resources to fund one project, and you have to decide between..

Project A – you invest 1 million, and the result in you make 50,000 in profit, pretty much guaranteed.

Project B – you invest one million, and you have a 50-50 chance of returning 500,000.

Your decision is a matter of risk versus the return you get for the investment. Some would apply this kind of idea to the ministry, where do we plant churches, which direction do we lead the church, how do we decide about staff people.  It even is applied to our daily priorities, which things will I do today, that will build the kingdom?  Who will I invest my time in, who will I pass off to to others.  What will be my best ROI as a pastor?  Do we use such thoughts to justify why we don’t talk to this person, or don’t try that in ministry.  Either the ROI is to minimal, or the risk is too great?  We can’t spread ourselves that thin, or we have to concentrate strongly on this or that.  We use concepts from time management and strategic planning.

I started thinking about this last night – and the challenge my own congregation has in reaching out.  I started thinking about my first congregation and its growth, which was significant given its size.  It wasn’t were I planned to “invest” that provided the growth.  In fact, it was what I had to do besides being a pastor that resulted in growth.  First, my work as a part-time instructor at a college, and as a hospice chaplain.  Neither was supposed to be something I was doing to help our church grow, but that’s what happened.

If we are honest, all of our statistical analysis and projected ROI’s don’t mean diddly squat when it comes to the world of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t know if the nurse watching us minister to the person with alzheimer’s or in a coma will have seeds planted that will result in their baptism.  We don’t know that the student we failed in a class will later come by the office to apologize, and then reveal struggles that only God can heal.   We don’t know if the person who watched us grab someone’s check at a restaurant will ask why we did such a thing, and find our about God’s love.  Or the person we smiled at in the checkout line at Walmart needed some encouragement on a very hard day.

We don’t know when God is using us to break through a hard heart, or plant the seed of His love.  We might not ever know.  That kind of investment cannot be quantified, it cannot be studied, it cannot be controlled and reproduced.  That present to many of us a problem.

We’ve been trained since birth, to look for results, We’ve been trained to do things in a way that can be evaluated by criteria, we’ve been instructed to get the best grade, to aim for successful goals, to describe our mission in life with quantitative elements.

And evangelism, as St.Paul points out, isn’t so easy to see the results of, because it is a matter of teamwork.  It is the Holy Spirit working through all of us, not just one or two.  It is as Fr. Josemaria indicates, often we have no clue of the harvest we’ve been working towards, because that is not our role.  We’re aren’t the owner of the field, or the foreman.  We have our vocations, our gifts, and we follow His lead.  It’s unnerving.  especially as we invest and invest and invest in some people. Being the plow blade that breaks up hardened ground, or hardened hearts is a tough job…. and it is made only tougher because we do not know the result.  Yet it is a necessary job, this work where the Holy Spirits works through us.

What gets us trough?  What eases our frustration our doubt that what we invest will have some positive return?  What helps us to keep going?

Knowing the heart of God.  Realizing that is desire is that non one should perish, but all come to know the transformation to everlasting life. Knowing is promises, how He sustained Jeremiah, how he called Paul, how e worked through Peter.  Those live serve as a legacy, a testimony to us who in this generation serve……

Not knowing the gruit of our labors, but assured He does…..

Lord Have mercy on us, in this amazing, complex, frustrating, ministry of reconciling the world to You….and increase our trust in You!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1107-1108). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on May 19, 2014, in Devotions, The Forge and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

I love to know your thoughts on this... please respond!

%d bloggers like this: