One of the ways ministries fund themselves is through writing grants. The process of writing these requests can be helpful and clarifying. A typical grant request includes a statement of need, measurable goals, expected outcomes, and a budget.
There is a significant downside when we attempt to measure ministry only through measurable gains. People and circumstances are not easily predicted. Could you imagine if Jesus had to write a grant request prior to his birth? The statement of need would have been strong, the goals would have been out of this world, but the outcomes? After 33 years he found 12 possible “board members” (the disciples); one betrayed him, another denied him, others doubted, and the rest ran. Then there are the accounting practices, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, what is that all about. How insightful was Jesus anyway? The treasurer of the whole organization ended up betraying him for 30 pieces of silver. Yes there was the resurrection and that was pretty cool. From a sustainability perspective, even after the resurrection, the program was in ruins and leadership was non-existent.
Over the next two millenniums the church rose from the ashes of failure. It certainly hasn’t been perfect, but its influence is felt everywhere.
We spend our careers, lives, and ministry around an immediate success ethic. We have all heard the sermons. God just wants to bless you today, but you have to give. Or if you have faith like a mustard seed things will work out, now or in the next week or two at the most.
There are certainly times when God works quickly. I also have had to live with a silent God. Friends have died, even when I prayed with my mustard seed faith. Finances are not always available and don’t always arrive in time.
Our careers, ministries, and lives need to be judged by a larger faith picture. Much like the Apostle Paul, we only get to see in a mirror dimly; we only know in part. This kind of stuff – faith, hope and love – does not fit easily into a grant request or theologies of success.