Mission Above Mammon: Charting a Course for Success
As the president of World Vision U.S. and the former CEO of two for-profit corporations, I have spent all of my professional life trying to manage organizations to achieve success.
Every organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, must have a successful financial model to succeed, but long-term success doesn’t come from just managing numbers. The most successful organizations are mission-driven.
In Christian organizations, this truth may be even more compelling.
At its core, this is the question of the means versus the ends. In a secular corporation, the goal is to create profits for the owners or shareholders; the means to that end might be selling automobiles, or books, or delivering a service like air travel or lodging. At the end of the day, the bottom line is profit.
But in a Christian business or non-profit, the role is reversed. The activity, selling books or providing a service, is the end; it’s the missional impact. Profits are simply a means to that end. We are called to put “mission above mammon.”
Yes, Christian stores have to meet rent and payroll. They have to purchase their inventory, and they need to stay on top of industry trends while also providing great service to their customers.
These are demands that all businesses face, and it is necessary that Christian retailers do these things well enough to earn a profit. Non-profit ministries have many of the same financial demands to meet.
Yet, the reason all of us are in business is to fulfill a mission -- a mission given to us by the Lord to build God’s kingdom. For a Christian retailer, this mission might involve equipping the saints, lifting up God’s eternal truths, and providing the tools of discipleship.
For World Vision, the mission is to serve the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ. That’s the mission, and money is just a means to that end -- not an end unto itself.
We have all been given talents to be put into kingdom service. When a business or non-profit ministry puts mammon first, it is burying what God has given it to invest.
In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, it was fear that led the lazy servant to bury his talent. Even in these tough economic conditions, we all need to remember to be faithful to the mission we’ve been given.
Photo ©2011 World Vision, Jon Warren
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