Return On Investment: Success

In the business world success is often driven by Return On Investment (ROI). ROI is such a critical factor to determine where to allocate and invest an organizations resources. Most typically, a business will utilize this in the financial structure of their business. The business will keep throwing money at what brings them back a good return. But what is a good return for a business and should the church approach it with the same principles?

What Do We Do With Truth?

Let’s look at the parable of the talents in Luke 19:11-37 (Also in Matthew 25). The King is going away on a business trip and decides to leave his money with multiple men. Each of the men use the wages differently. One man invests wisely and earns 10 times more than he was given… talk about good ROI! The second man invested and made 5 times more than he was given (and he was rewarded accordingly). The last man, did not invest the money into business at all, but rather kept it hidden and safe. He let fear keep him from taking any risk and because of this, the talents were taken away from him and given to those who reaped a return.

In most translations, it is Jesus telling a parable about money usage… or at least, that is what the subheading reads. But, in reality, it is a parable of what we do with Truth. As followers of Jesus, we are to invest differently than the world. The world tells us that getting the most return on investment we possibly can whether financially, real estate, or other assets. That seems most logical… I mean, come on, who of us doesn’t want the first man on our team who earned 10 times more than what was given to him. All of us. Duh. But, who of us wants the last man… Mr. Scaredy-Cat at… on our business or church team? Welp, that depends on what our motives are and what return we are seeking.

Fishers Of Men

Remember when Jesus gathered up his team… he got fishermen. Jesus is quite adamant about calling his disciples to be fishermen… But not of fish, but of men. Logically, when we see someone fishing or even think of fishing, we are expecting them to be catching fish. Yet, we see that Truth says the best return on investment is people. So, the business tells you to catch as many fish as possible to make the most profit. The Church tells you to make more fishermen.

ROI seems counterintuitive when we look at Jesus’ life. The best return on investment is in people. Sometimes we never see that return, but we sure know we invested it. Sometimes we never catch any fish, but sometimes we set up the next person to win. Just look at Jeremiah’s life… his whole life He was hard at work, but never saw any fruit to all his labor. Any church team or business organization would have dumped him and got a dude more like the first investor of the kings money from the parable of the talents.

Measuring Success As The Church

How we measure success as fishers of men is quite different than what logic screams at us. Success is not simply reaching our set goals and aspirations because most of us do not have the right motives to set the right goals. Success is obedience to what God says to do… even when there is no fruit to the labor. Because, we have to remember and trust that God is working a plan that is much better than ours. We have to have faith that what we are working for will have its benefits.

I live in Philadelphia right near a notorious area that constantly is making national news for the drug epidemic in America. Kensington. There are four bridges back-to-back that have tent cities that are full of any drugs, prostitution, or any other need you want. I’ve been a part of ministries and seen many other people go in to try and help these people. But, I’ve seen very little reward or success in doing so. To an extent, I understand Jeremiah’s lamentation.

It’s clear throughout the Bible that Jesus has a social concern for the poor, the broken, and the marginalized. Jesus LOVED the rejects of culture. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul tells us to imitate the love that Jesus showed to the world. If you look at Jesus’ life… would you have had him on your team?

Unaccountable to your system. Constantly out in the neighborhood eating with the ‘sinners’ and ‘rejects’ of the city… chewing up your church budget with no outcomes but ‘simple’ relationships. And when he does show up in the church service, he reproves and corrects corrupted doctrine.

Making Disciples Who Make Disciples: Success

Proverbs 31:8-9

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.”

Church, your return on investment may not make financial sense, but as long as it is investing into loving people… it’s what God calls us to do and He is faithful and good to deliver on His promises to reward those who work in his fields. You may not see the fruit now, but you will certainly see it when you die.

Even if you see no fish, bring someone along with you and train them up on how to fish. But not just that… teach that one you bring along how to fish, but also how to bring someone along with them to teach them. It’s not just about how many fish you catch – (i.e. how many people you bring into church). It’s about how many people you train to catch fish with you… It’s about how many of those people learn to train up fishermen with you. “Go and make disciples” is more about making fishermen who make fishermen rather than teaching someone to simply fish. Being a disciple isn’t what gets people in trouble; it’s making disciples who make disciples that paints a target on your back.

Remember Stephen. Yea, he’s not in the Bible long… but his legacy makes up majority of the  New Testament. He died defending truth and defending people. While he was being stoned to death for his faith, guess who was overseeing it… Paul. The dude who witnessed his faith and then went on to start the church era. Your return on investment might be like Stephen’s and be physical death… and your reward will be GREAT! But also, your return on investment could also be starting the church era and planting many churches like Paul. Either way, defend the poor and stand for truth; even if it kills you and you see no fruit and makes no sense. God gets to write whether you are like Jeremiah, Stephen, or Paul. Our job is simply to be obedient: to love God, to love people, and in that order. That’s success.