ROI and MISSION ‘it matters’

Dan O’Deens / April 27, 2015

In the business world the bottom line matters, it is referred to as ROI (return on investment).   I wonder why in the Christian ‘business’ world the bottom line matters less when in reality EVERYTHING is at stake. The Christian or Missional world should refer to this principle as EROI. (eternal return on investment)

What will believers in Jesus be judged on when we stand before Christ?   Our message, our motivation and our ministry effectiveness are probably the core components of accountability.

Our message should come from the source of God’s Word, that message is timeless and true.   This Word is both written and living. The easier part is what is written, ‘there it is, deal with it.’   The more difficult part is the living Word…Jesus.   Jesus was NOT accepted by the status quo religious leaders.   He was not a rebel, but He was an absolute, radical, outside of the box thinker. He said things that were not popular. He went into unchartered territories.   He chose to ‘hang out’ with sinners rather than saints. Do we dare to stand for Truth?

Our motivation comes from within. Others may judge our motives, but in the end there is only One who knows the heart. Others may have perceptions be they right or wrong. Perception is real, but not always ‘right.’ Can your words and actions be trusted?   The issue is not ‘tolerated’ or ‘liked’ but trusted.   There are many politicians who can say the right things but their life and their bottom line is lacking.   A statesman is most often misunderstood and unappreciated in the temporary realm but only statesmen leave legacy. Do we judge based on Truth or preference?

Our ministry effectiveness is directly predicated on changed life.   Are we making a difference?   Is my community a better place because of my investment? Is my church a better place because of my commitment?   Is my world/ministry a better place because of my willingness to invest and leverage all that God made me to be and allows me to do?   Do we assess on personality or effectiveness?

In the parable of the talents, it appears that Jesus is stressing the importance of a person using their talents. A talent is useless unless it is used.

There is no one that has no talents.  This includes those in the church and those outside of the Body of Christ.  The ‘talent’ is a broad term that should include the three common words generally associated with stewardship and accountability; time, talent, and treasures.   Some have the talent of helping, some of giving encouragement, others use their personal time at the expense of themselves to help others, yet others help to financially support the church or help the poor, however there are many who simply bury their talents.  A talent is a monetary unit that is worth about 20 years’ worth of wages for a person’s labor.

The Parable of the Talents is given by Jesus right after He talks about His second coming and that no one knows the day or the hour and so a believer must be using their talents to the best of their abilities as if Jesus will be returning today. Matthew 25: 14-30   “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.“ “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.  But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

A noteworthy comment in the text is that the servant hid his ‘MASTER’S’ money. The investment was not his, but he would in fact, answer for it in the end.

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Did you see it?   “Now after a long time.”   Time tells.   There is a day of true accountability. The master will check up on the EROI.   There are only two things that last forever…the Word of God and people. What or Who are we investing in?   Process? Procedure? Protocal? Politics? Jesus our Master has entrusted to us the most valuable product on the planet, His Gospel.

Are we preaching for life change? Are peoples lives being changed or are we simply stuffing more information in their heads?   Are we building up personal towers and monuments that we call Churches or Mission Agencies or are we part of building the Kingdom of God? The Master knows.

Metrics are a part of the story. Christian metrics are difficult for most people to wrap their minds around.   Healthy organisms grow. They multiply.   Health can be assessed.   What are the metrics for the Church? Should we have them?   Should we be held accountable for making the original investment greater in the end? Jesus apparently thinks EROI matters.

The servants who are entrusted with talents must know the personality and character of their Lord. He expects them to know Him well enough to apply the spirit as well as the letter of His instructions. Those that do are richly rewarded. The others receive severe judgment. The first two understand the spirit and letter of instructions and the character of their Lord. They both use the resources by “trading” to gain a profit. Each of them makes a 100 percent profit. Fear and mistrust of his Lord motivate the third servant. He buries his talent and returns only the original amount. The profitable servants are praised, given increased responsibilities and invited to enter into the joy of their Lord. The untrusting servant is punished.

I fear that those of us who have been given the trust of leadership lose sight of our mission. We think that what we have belongs to us and worse we deceive ourselves into thinking that God’s blessing on our personal or ministry life is related to how ‘good’ we are. The truth is, God gives whatever He wishes to give us.   We are responsible to make good on that investment.   No one else will be held responsible for what God has given to you. The Master rewards responsibility and hard work.   The worker recognizes an important life principle.   “What is rewarded, will be repeated.”

Are we measuring the right things?   We measure success by faithfulness at the expense of effectiveness. We value charisma and charm at the expense of character and competence.   We choose safe at the expense of risk, even calculated risk. We lean into comfort at the expense of sacrifice.

In the end, has our talent been multiplied? Does that matter?   ETERNITY matters. Let’s make that our bottom line. Are the efforts of our organizations making an ‘Eternal Return On Investment?’