What’s Our Business, and How’s Business?
Moving forward with renewed focus
There are events that come along that cause me to hit the “reset” button on life. It may be a vacation, a medical leave, a retreat, a new job, or a conference. At such times, a significant question helps me determine how to reset.
The pandemic has been one of those events. The question I’ve been pondering over the past few months is this: Why does the Church exist, and how can we use this reset season to more closely align with God’s heart for the Church?
It’s similar to a question I’ve had written in the back of my Bible for years: “What’s our business, and how’s business?”
Businesses cannot assess how they are doing until they are clear on what they do. Similarly, the Church needs to be clear on what God has called us to do, and then assess how we are doing at that.
So, what’s your business, and how’s business? How would you answer that question about your church or ministry? Let’s dig a little deeper together.
Where do we turn to discover what we’ve been assigned to do? It should be obvious, and pardon me if this seems overly simplistic. We go to the Bible, God’s Word. We may be tempted to look elsewhere — at leadership principles, history or nostalgia, other churches or ministries, business structures, the opinions of those around us, or our personal preferences. But it’s important to look first to Scripture for clarity on God’s assignment for the Body of Christ.
Our assignment from God falls into two categories: the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.
The Great Commandment
In Matthew 22:35–40, Jesus answered one of those reset questions:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Some wanted to trap Jesus with this question. But many were likely leaning in — just as many still are today — wanting to know what was truly on the heart of Jesus. It’s not enough to know what’s good; we need to know what’s of God. What’s most important to Jesus? Loving God and others.
So, as a minister, how do you walk that out and then measure how you’re doing with that assignment? It will probably look different for each minister reading this.
Here are some questions you might want to process in your private prayer time, in your journal, or in a discussion with your spouse or a colleague:
- How do you express your love for the Lord, besides through your ministry work?
- What are the differences when your love for God is coming from your heart, versus your soul or your mind?
- If God had a gauge that moved when you expressed love for Him, what could you plan for the next 24 hours that would move the meter?
- Are you more inclined to tilt toward loving your neighbor or loving God? What does it mean to you that those two elements are part of just one command and can’t be separated?
It’s important to look first to Scripture for clarity on God’s assignment for the Body of Christ.
The Great Commandment applies to me and you as individuals, because we are first followers of Jesus Christ before we are ministers. And the Great Commandment also is connected to our public ministry as we lead by example and help those we serve love God and love others well.
The Great Commission
I can’t think of a time when the Church offered more variety than it has in recent years — in terms of programs, styles, processes, you name it.
In many ways, COVID simplified our church calendars and scaled back what we could do, at least for a time. Now, as we look ahead and think about post-pandemic ministry, how do we choose which of those activities to resume and which ones to retire?
Again, let’s go to the Bible. What made it to the level of the Great Commission? Matthew 28:18–20 says this:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Some believers think the end game is to get a neighbor to come to their church, and then the church leaders will take it from there. But are we training those we lead to be disciples who make disciples? Are we teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus by knowing the Bible — not just by trying to be better, but by actively pursuing holiness, aware of the reality that it is the presence of Jesus empowering us?
Here are some questions to explore with your church staff, volunteers, ministry board, missionary team, or family:
- With what has God gifted us that we can apply toward leading disciples who make disciples?
- What would it look like to measure every element of our ministry (staff, volunteers, money, building space, calendar space, etc.) by its contribution to the Great Commission?
- On the other side of COVID, what adjustments should we make so that we are more closely aligned with the Great Commission?
My friend Bill Mouer, a retired pastor from The Foursquare Church, did his Fuller Theological Seminary dissertation decades ago on small groups that develop and multiply disciples. We recently talked about his study and decades of pastoring, the example Jesus modeled in making disciples, and what we’re experiencing in the Church today during the pandemic.
“Our experience during COVID has forced us to get smaller, and God’s plan is to teach us the importance of the individual,” he said. “Any size church can do this. During COVID, using Zoom and digital ministry, we now have a perfect model to touch more people than we could have ever touched in our large gatherings. People can be connected though not present.”
I believe this season has given us — both as followers of Christ and as ministry leaders — an opportunity to pause, reflect, and hit the reset button on what we are doing and how we’re doing.
Before assuming going “back to normal” should be the goal, why not wrestle with some important questions so we can be better aligned with the heart of the Father as we move forward, focused on what matters most?
This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of Called to Serve, the Assemblies of God Ministers Letter.