Make faithfulness and results the choice. Please.

“Aim for faithfulness rather than results!”

If this headline from a recent issue of the Focus on Nonprofit Accountability newsletter strikes you as an odd opposition of goods, join the club. As faithful readers of Generous Matters know, when the words on either side of the slash mark are equally desirable, I’m no fan of either/or thinking.

I find the call for forced rejection of one of the goods especially troubling in this instance. If you’re looking for a both/and outcome that’s worth pursuing, faithfulness and results seems a great choice.

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I understand what the authors are getting at here and in The Choice: The Christ-centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, their book-length treatise on the same theme. I, too, think it’s a tragedy to gain the world but lose your organization’s soul. However, I wish the authors hadn’t made bogey men of outcomes, results, metrics, and other administrative best practices to bolster their thesis.

From what I see in my work with faith-based nonprofits, the problem isn’t too much of these “worldly” pursuits. It’s not enough.

CHOICE MATTERS

History is littered with the remains of ministries that were faithful to the core, but where leadership gave too little attention to the rules of the game they were called to play (and win). As the saying goes, “Shoddy holy is still shoddy.” Or to quote St. Thomas Aquinas’ more eloquent version from his Summa Theologica, “If one disdains glory in such a manner that he makes no effort to do that which merits glory, that action is blameworthy.”

We should want our ministries to post better numbers, but not as the authors suggest “so that we will have higher charity ratings and so that more people will give us more money.” Rather, we bring our utmost – our better, our best — for God’s highest.

We count, we track, and we report in gratitude for the funds and trust that we receive from donors and friends. We set goals with God’s grand agenda in mind. And we seek results that bring glory to God’s name. In other words, we seek to do what is right before God and man.

So back to faithfulness and results. It’s okay to aim for both. In fact, I can’t imagine why the choice would be anything less.

For more on themes from this article, see:

A ministry response to the challenges of nonprofit fundraising

It’s seldom one or the other, but it could be.

Maximizing the distance between all or nothing.

Comments

  1. Rebekah, Even though the ancient Greeks recognized the existence of the inclusive “or” for which you are arguing, it seems to me that Western culture is trying to drive us to the exclusive “or.” against which you are arguing. Why the reluctance to accept the inclusive “or”? Perhaps, the inclusive “or” is too close to the mysticism of Eastern thought which permitted and even encouraged seemingly contradictions. To the modern Western mind, the belief that Christ is fully God and fully human is too much of a contradiction. To the early Eastern mind, this was acceptable. I believe that we should be more ready to accept an inclusive “or” that allows for both, but doesn’t mandate a permanent “and.” It allows for possibilities where reality requires only one of the two conditions. To have a comprehensive logic, we need three connectors. Two is not sufficient to describe reality..

    • Ah, By, leave it to a mathematician to call me on my logic. You beat my philosopher husband to the punch, but I’m certain I’ll hear from him as well. My argument is directed at the headline of the article and it’s continuing premise that a results orientation works against faithfulness. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive, which I guess means I am okay with an inclusive or. Who would have thought!

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