Business vs. Ministry: Man-Hours vs. Prayer


I have a few colleagues who have degrees in business management, and as good as they are at running meetings sometimes, I'm also impressed with how much they can miss about what makes ministry different from business. I want to spend a few posts highlighting the difference between two — particularly as it relates to methodology. I admittedly have a very limited (at best) understanding of business practices, and so most of this is mere inference or pulled from what I have heard my friends suggest.

This first post I want to talk about man-hours. I have read enough online to know that it is not an infallable maxim that more man-hours means greater productivity. Even the business world has recognized that tired people are ineffective people. Some people work crazy hours and get nothing done and some few hours and accomplish much. However at some point there is a real basic understanding that what you're doing in the business world is dependant on the work of man. Therefore more man-hours = more productivity.

Ministry is very different. It is still true that some are more effective with their time than others, however it never boils down to what you're doing being dependant on man. In fact it boils down to the fact that what you're hoping to accomplish is absolutely dependant on God. You can, like in the business world, increase man-hours and notice a change in output. But numbers are never the goal of ministry. Obedience is. Doing the will of God is the point of ministry.

You may see X number of new believers (or church members, or whatever you do), and with increased man hours X+100 new believers, but numbers do not say anything about what you're doing. Some of the most faithful people of all time may have seen very little fruit, but nonetheless faithfully labored exactly where the Lord wanted them to. Obedience is difficult to measure.

In ministry the only thing that you can add more of (and even this only to a point) and see a direct relationship with your rate of success is prayer. More prayer will produce greater results. And not because we control God and His will when we pray. But rather because prayer makes us submit to God. In prayer we are declaring our dependance on Him and what He is doing, prayer makes us obedient to the Lord's will.

By setting aside more time to pray we essentially tell the Lord, "What we're doing is worthless with you." And in doing so, we are simply proclaiming the truth to ourselves — I assure you this is no surprise to Him. In tuning in the heart of the Lord we are much more likely to do the things he would have us do. This means minstering to the right people, and in the right ways. Unholy people do not make holy disciples. Passionate followers of Christ make others in to passionate followers of Christ.

I say there is a point where this no longer holds up. And that is when you pray all day and do nothing else. I'm not arguing that the Lord cannot use that. After all, true missionary work is done on our knees (James Fraser), but at some point we need to be hands and feet as well. However this, in my opinion, is really a mute point. I seirously doubt anyone who spends serious time in true prayer can avoid being convicted of his need to get out and do the will of the Lord.

Business: More man-hours will yield more productivity.
Ministry: More man-hours will not yield more worthwhile productivity (though it may increase numbers). More prayer will yield obedience, which means more of God's work being done.