It’s easy to set off on a vision to build great bicycles only to end up manufacturing water bottles. To clarify this seemingly nonsensical statement, let’s say you have a passion for building bicycles, with a dream to one day own your own bike shop. You’ve envisioned and designed the greatest bike in the world, and started to build a rapidly growing bicycle company around that vision. Over time almost every bike enthusiast in your region owns a version of your bike. Now, you own a huge bike company, but growth is slowing down. So you begin mining customer survey data to see what more you can offer your customers. It seems that your customers love your bikes but many of them want bottle holders for their bikes so they can take beverages with them. Rather than going back to your original vision of building awesome bikes, you build a team to design bottle holders and bottles. The bottle division of your company takes off and eventually outgrows the original bicycle division. Profits are great, but you are unsettled and unfulfilled at the fact that you’ve deviated from your original passion and dream to build great bikes.
Though this illustration is a bit contrived, you see versions of this story all the time with corporations specializing in and even becoming known for products they never intended. Marriot originally started as a root beer stand. American Express was an express mail service. The electronics conglomerate Samsung, started off importing and exporting dried foods. Such evolution is acceptable and even seems smart for corporations, since profitability and the bottom line are a major purpose for why they exist. They are accountable to shareholders who want future profitability. In ministry however, we’re in the business of loving and saving lives, and we are accountable to God and His Church. So we can’t simply go from being a church or ministry organization that spreads the gospel and makes disciples, to an organization that makes bottles so-to-speak. As the Church, we have much more at stake here on earth than profits.
Sometimes ministries and churches can get so caught up with accommodating and pandering to its congregants that they lose sight of reaching and saving the lost. You don’t see a whole lot of new baptisms happening, nor do you see much growth at these churches. They’ll hold fun weekly events and activities for its members, which are fine and dandy, but what about Christ’s call to make disciples?
I’m fortunate to be serving in a church that has for decades and still does hold to its original mission and vision. Everything we do, goes back to the underlying purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission by living out the Great Commandment. While the members of our body have varying opinions and ideas about ministry, our Pastor and leaders have listened to God over the many voices of its members and as a result we are still growing. Likewise, I pray that you and your ministry stay true to the mission God has called you to and that new believers are added to your numbers constantly. I also pray that rather than becoming bottle-makers, you’d remain disciple-makers.