Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Swimming Naked in an Ebb Tide

Billy Graham continues to have Spirit-guided wisdom far beyond his 91 years. When asked what cautions he had for evangelicals today, he warned us about being “victims of our own success.”

Billy is so right. Evangelicals handle poverty better than prosperity. When our faith-based ministries are struggling in the margins, we depend on God, make sacrifices, focus our energies, exercise creativity, and multiply the effectiveness of our ministry. In prosperity, however, we tend to let the good times roll.

Think about the long-term, strategic plans of Christ-centered organizations today. More often than not, they are based on the assumption that the growth of the future will equal or exceed the growth of the past.

Robert Putnam, however, echoes Billy Graham’s caution in his book American Grace. According to demographic studies, the halcyon days of evangelical power, growth, and influence are waning. Leaking out of the bottom of the statistics is a younger generation of evangelicals coming to adulthood who reject politicized faith, tolerate theological diversity, and put individual spirituality over institutional loyalty. If so, boards and executive leaders of Christ-centered organizations had better give our plans a reality check and rethink our strategy according to the disciplines of sound management. Otherwise, as crusty old Warren Buffett put it, “When the tide goes out, you discover who’s swimming naked.” We dare not let good times mask bad management.

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