One of my favorite shows on television is “The Profit.” The show very well could be called “The Prophet” because of how the star, Marcus Lemonis preaches to the people before telling them about the financial “promised land” he can lead them to. “The Profit” features Lemonis, the apostle of making money, a serial entrepreneur that fixes and invests in failing business. He says he does it for two reasons: to make money and to save jobs.
I am often envious of how well the secular world can fully embrace good stewardship when the church often struggles with it. When I reflect on the book of Genesis, I could reasonably argue that one of the first things God did was to give Adam a job and an organizational structure. Adam and Eve were charged with being the stewards of all creation.
“ Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV).
But for some reason in the church we often demonize anything that sounds like good business practice even it if means being bad stewards. We say, “But this is church.” As if that justifies wasting money, resources, or people’s time. In the name of ministry we too often hold on to building and programs that have long outlived their usefulness. We continue to support leaders who may be over their heads, instead of moving them into positions that equal their skill level. We overlook the disruptive or even harmful employee because again, they are a part of the church.
There are a lot of practical lessons in The Bible that teach us about organization and the management money. For example, people often think the story of the loaves and the fishes is about Jesus miraculously turning a few fish and bread into a bunch of fish and bread pieces. That is not even the real miracle. The real miracle was getting a bunch of hungry church people to sit down in an orderly fashion and wait patiently while the food was distributed. If you doubt this analysis of scripture, make note of how people act at your next church potluck.
The real miracle was getting a bunch of hungry church people to sit down in an orderly fashion and wait patiently while the food was distributed.
The last episode of “The Profit” I watched of course, had a connection to Mennonites. Weaver’s Woodworking in Pennsylvania was highlighted on the show because of their connection to the sports memorabilia company featured on the show, but I digress … Marcus Lemonis always says that three things matter in business: People, Process and Product. He drives those things home, show after show. Those three “P’s” frame Mr. Lemonis’s business processes, and I think that there is a glimmer of wisdom that our denomination and our congregations can glean from him. For the Mennonite Church USA I would offer that we are in the people business; the gospel is our process; and our product is reconciliation.
We are in the people business. As Anabaptist Christians we can never forget that people (in community) are the center of our lives. We have to take care of the people that God has entrusted us with. All sinners, saints and seekers should be welcome to join in the harmony of our work and share in our process of living out the gospel of Christ. We also must also have competent leaders who are able to not only discern God’s will, but able to do so in the context of a diverse community.
Our process is the gospel. Ideally it is a process that notes that Christ is the center of our faith and we operate under of a covenant of grace and not one of condemnation. It is our job to share and live out the message of Christ. Many businesses fail because they have flawed processes which either turn out inferior products or waste valuable resources. Either way you wind up out of business because nobody wants your crappy product or you exhaust all of your resources. In some ways the church has failed to stay relevant. We have built cathedrals and mega-ministries instead of relationships. We have created doctrines that condemn instead of welcome. So outsiders ask, “Why come?”
Our product? Well that is a tough one to fully define. I believe that as Anabaptists reconciliation should be the center of our work. As a body of believers that put such a heavy emphasis on The Sermon on the Mount, we should be a church that delivers hope, that offers a third way, and that fights for justice. Right now it might not seem that we our producing much in the way of a reconciled body or that we are showing the world how the love of Christ can bring about reconciliation. We are too busy fighting amongst ourselves. The one thing I am sure of is that we don’t need Mr. Lemonis or any other prophet to come and fix Mennonite Church USA. I still have faith in both our community (people) and in our process (the gospel). I believe that we can be good stewards of what God has entrusted to our care.