I was recently reading through an argument written in favor of measuring different things in a ministry setting as a gauge of performance. If you’re like me, then you might actually wince as you read those words.
And rightfully so; many contemporary Christians have trust issues when it comes counting things in the workplace. Goals, reports, and metrics all conjure up usually one of two caricatures. The first is of Bill Lumbergh, the boss from the movie Office Space. Bill is rarely seen doing any actual work of his own and cares only for the reports his subordinates can produce. Lumbergh goes through the motions to collect his paychecks, as do his employees.
The second caricature is the famed Wolf of Wall Street himself, Gordon Gekko. Gekko is the win-at-all-costs manager driven only by maximizing his return, burning through business ethics texts and people in the process.
If these two caricatures are the first accompanying thoughts to goal setting, then it is no wonder that Christians have trust issues with measuring performance.
Consider the story in the Gospels where Jesus feeds the 5,000. Matthew records the event by saying that a huge crowd followed Jesus and when he saw them, he “felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.” (Matt 14.14) The disciples, ever in tow of their rabbi, saw the same scene unfolding. One would think that in the same spirit of their master, the 12 would be overjoyed at the reception the Son of Man was receiving at present.
Instead, the balk: “When evening came, the disciple approached Him and said, “this place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (14.15)
What a terrible mission strategy!
Five thousand men (and likely another 8,000 women and children with them) show up begging to be healed by the One who came to heal them. They are sitting around in the wilderness hoping that the Son of Man will change their lives forever. And what does Jesus’ A-Team do? They come up with the idea to send away 13,000 people.
Until today, I’ve primarily read this text as narrative about the power and desire of Jesus to heal the crowds. Without taking away from that, I think this story also has something to say to the leaders of Jesus’ church today. This has revealed to me my own cynicism about what God wants to do and how He wants to do it. More often than not, my default is to send away the crowds because I don’t see a way for Jesus to feed them, just like the 12 do. The only difference between me and the 12 is that they at least had 13,000 people on their doorstep and I say no for people before they even show up.
I’ll leave you with this thought: is your knee-jerk reaction to send away the crowds? If you’re like me and it is, then repent: for even the dogs have crumbs to gather under the table of our Lord.