I’ve been studying corporate finance during my holidays. I’ve been astounded by the complexity and intricacy of the relationship that money has with business.
My study method is to firstly memorise the glossary. Then if there is a term that I don’t understand I look it up on wikipedia or investopedia and chasing down any loose ends. This way I can build a broad, comprehensive conceptual understanding, with a limited corpus of terminology from which I can later go into micro detail if necessary.
Taking this approach has lead me to explore a staggering complexity in what I thought was a simple concept. I used to think finance was just moving money around. But the way that money can be managed in abstract ways (well, to my thinking at least - e.g. bonds and stocks), and the underlying power it holds in these forms amazes me. Even though it *is* just moving money around, finance is the essence and life-force of all economic activity. And to truly understand the world we live in we must come to terms with the manner and working of the force undergirding capitalism.
This got me thinking about church. What is the life-force of a church? More importantly, when is a church really doing well? Previously I thought this was when it was financially stable. Sure, having enough money is very important for a church. It certainly helps a church if all its paid resources can be maintained, and I know some senior clergy use it as a basic litmus test of congregational viability. But I think there is something more fundamental than the size of the offertory plate: the amount of investment going on. When I say investment, I mean human investment; the amount of effort being poured in to the whole Christian enterprise, whether it be when members invest in the kids program, or work on their own godliness, or repent of sins to close friends. The sum total of all the effort shows where a church is truly at. The other factors aren’t as important.
I think a deep understanding of energy and investment in church, and, in particular, how to foster and sustain it could be one of the most important but least talked about tasks of the minister. I also suspect that similar to managing finance in business, managing investment in a church is more complex than it seems.
In business, if you are generating good money, you’re doing something right.
Similarly in ministry, if you are generating enthusiasm, energy and action, something’s going well.
For both, if you can sustain it long term, you’ve made it.