GOLD

Leaving a legacy

by Shore Vineyards pastor Vic Francis

“We may not need any more cathedrals but we do need cathedral thinkers, people who can think beyond their own lifetimes” (philosopher Charles Handy).

I was with a New Zealand Christian leader one day and we got to talking about a key ministry in this country with which we had both been involved.We spoke warmly and respectfully about the ageing leader of the ministry and the challenges the organisation faced replacing him.

But we disagreed when we came to the subject of the legacy he would leave. My friend tended to think this man, for all his magnificent service, had stayed on too long and become a hindrance rather than a help to the ministry he had served for much of his life. I took the position that he was an amazing servant of God, a warrior who was an inspiration to all of us younger leaders as we considered our own older age.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since then and now believe I was wrong. He should have got out years ago.

My legacy at Shore Vineyards won’t be known until five years after I leave. If our church continues to thrive and grow and reach people for Christ under their new leaders, I will have succeeded. But if it flounders and loses momentum because I’m not there, or because it was too much built around me, or because I’ve somehow subtly set it up to fail without me, I will have failed.

I have concluded that the way you leave a ministry is as important as the way you arrive. Some people leave too early, just when the breakthrough they had prayed and sacrificed for is near; others leave too late, in the process helping to kill the very thing they have given their lives to create.How do we process this vital decision? Some thoughts:

  • Start with the end in mind – plan your succession early.
  • Think young – don’t build a team of your age or older.
  • Keep trusting God – in many ways, the older you are the harder this becomes.
  • Grow in your role – increasingly do what only you can do and hand over the rest.
  • Seek truth – find someone who will tell you when it’s over.

I’m unproven in this, being a long-term pastor of Shore Vineyards. But I trust that, having invested so much into this church, I will be obedient when God calls me to let go.

 

Being the leader God has called you to be

by Vic Francis, pastor of Shore Vineyards

“If God has called you to lead, let nothing stand in the way of the privilege you have to serve him and to serve his people through applying the gift, the resources and the opportunity he has provided to you. You are among a special group of people who have been identified by him for a challenging but rewarding task: leading his people to victory” (George Barna).

The three leaders I have most intimately served under are three very different men. One is an “A-type” make-it-happen kind of guy; another a prophetic, charismatic, dominate-a-room type; the third has a teaching-encourager style of leadership.

All of them have inspired me and called me forward; none of them is a complete blueprint for the way I lead. And that’s as it should be.

I have had to take the best and find my own leadership style

It took me years to accept that I was a leader at all, and then it took me years more to work out what kind of a leader I am.

I have learned that every leader is different – different backgrounds, different skills, different callings, different eras, different environments, different challenges.

I have valued each of those three men who have been key leaders in my life, but ultimately I have had to take the best and find my own leadership style. We will always have people who inspire us and draw us forward, but anything we see and learn must pass through the filter of who we are and what God has called us to do.

I love this quote from Episcopal priest Robert Capon: “I have never done an honest day’s work as a clergyman. In fact, I hate, despise, and avoid at least half the things clergypersons are supposed to do. I love preaching, celebrating the Eucharist, teaching and counselling; so I have done those things just for the joy of it. I am also moderately fond of administration (which I delight in doing as quickly as possible), and I am more than a little enamoured of ecclesiastical politics (which I have pursued with relish, if not success). But I have little love for writing newsletters, attending other people’s meetings, paying house calls, or visiting in the hospital; so (since they are no fun), I have done as little of them as I could get away with.”

I don’t know if I agree with Capon completely (he seems a bit self-indulgent and unrealistic), but I think what he says is worth pondering as we discover how to be the leaders God has called us to be.


Working from your rest

by Sam Harvey, pastor of Grace Vineyard's Beach Campus

Imagine if a leader or pastor in our church was caught lying or cheating on their spouse, or we discovered they actually believed the spaghetti monster was god and worshipped him secretly in their office?

What if we discovered one of our leaders had the nasty habit of murdering people?

We would be outraged, shocked, it would probably spell the end of their leadership for a while, and there would be some pretty serious conversations that would need to take place.

Now all of these things are in the 10 commandments, and we rightly take them very seriously. But what strikes me as rather odd is that we don’t mind people working for the church constantly and never taking a break! We are commanded to engage with Sabbath rest, and this is clearly something very precious and central to God's heart.

I wonder whether this is one of our greatest blind spots in regards to sin?

I find it fascinating that the Israelites were commanded to rest (punishable by death if they didn’t!) when they were freed from Egypt. For a nation that had its identity caught up in how many bricks they produced, God was giving them a new identity that wasn’t caught up in what they produced, but in whose they were.

The same is true today. If we are unable to stop working (even for God), we are still a slave to what we produce.

it’s a day that places God back on the throne . . .

One of the great challenges of ministry is to prioritise the weekly “down tools”, disengagement from the work. There always seem to be a reason why it's not quite possible in “this season”.

It is also one of the areas that can be the greatest blessing. The Sabbath is like the future reign of God breaking in to the present, where the world is the way it should be. It is the time to be refreshed, renewed. It’s the time we are saying with our actions, “this ministry is not mine, it is Yours”, and therefore I can stop producing “bricks”.

It’s a day of laughter and celebration, of good food, of lifegiving relationships, it’s a day of the kingdom in its fullness. And it’s a day that places God back on the throne where we outwork the spiritual muscle of obedience to Him, where we remain passionate about building the kingdom, but building it the King's way.

Practically … what day is that for you? What does rest look like for you? How can you involve God in your day of rest? What could this day look like for you? Why does it feel difficult to slow down?

Coaching, mentoring and discipling meetings

by Lloyd Rankin, Vineyard national director

As leaders and disciplers, we must learn to do effective meetings with individuals or small groups. These are incredible opportunities to help shape a person’s life, and we should do them as well as possible.

We also need to decide which people we will see, and which people we will refer on to someone else. I will usually see someone who is moving towards making a commitment to Christ, someone just joining the church (to help him or her discover where they can fit) or one of our leaders. I refer other people on to others in the church. I would only see a man alone and would refer a woman to see another woman – and would urge you to establish and keep healthy boundaries and practices.

Points to ponder

1.     Be disciplined about setting and keeping appointment times, even if you are meeting in your lounge or in a cafe. Your time, and theirs, is very precious, so respect it and use it well.

2.    Before you meet, take time to be still and listen to what God might want you to do or say when you meet. We are prophetic people at heart – receiving from God and passing on what He gives us.

3.   When you get together, take a little time to connect at the heart level. Talk about what has happened since your last meeting. Has the person done what they said they would do? It is always good to have something to follow through on.

4.     Use an easy-to-remember structure for how you meet. Free form is great for social and friendship, but usually ineffective for mentoring or discipling. For a number of years I have used the G-R-O-W acronym to help me structure where we go in our time together.

G – Goal

The first step is to establish together what you would like to accomplish by spending this time with each other. The person you are seeing may already have a clear idea, or the goal may come out of asking a few questions like, “What is your biggest challenge/pressure right now?” or “What has God been speaking to you about lately?” or “What is your biggest question right now?”

R – Reality

The next step is to look at all the current factors – what is happening, how are they feeling, what is God blessing, what is working and not working, what are they currently trying etc. Our role is to help them understand their reality, to help them see clearly and give feedback to adjust the goal if necessary.

O – Options

This is the time to brainstorm, drawing out options they may not be seeing by asking questions and providing context and feedback. Then help them evaluate those options in the light of vision, values and reality.

W - Will

Help them commit to a course of action. It must come from them, if they are to own it. Help them make concrete, realistic next steps. “What are you going to do next?” It is the homework for the next appointment.

5.    I like to aim for three things when I meet with someone – give them something to celebrate, something to learn, something to work on.  If it is a conversation that is challenging, use the encouragement sandwich approach – something encouraging, followed by the challenge or correction, finishing with more encouragement!

How to do social media well

By Dan Sheed, planter of Central Vineyard in Auckland

You may have heard it said that your Sunday gathering “is a shop window for your church.”

Yes, it is, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your website and other web-based platforms are a 24/7 shop window for your church. The people who walk into your church gathering, leave. And what do they then do? They are getting online. We’re in a people business, and this is where our people are during the week. See for yourself: http://youtu.be/xJXOavGwAW8

This isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to grow your church, but a place for conversation

Just like a church gathering needs worship, notices, an offering, a message and ministry, your church needs a website, Facebook, Twitter and a video channel on Vimeo or YouTube. These online platforms are built for broadcasting a message and it is always good to remember that as leaders of churches we are in the communication business. 

How should we work with this online world?

We must have a healthy perspective on how we use it. This isn’t a “silver bullet” to grow your church, but a place for conversation. Think of it like bumping into a friend in the supermarket. It’s not just a public noticeboard. It’s not static, it moves. People post and leave messages, and you must give attention to it. You must “like” them, or write a message in return to them. YouTube videos are linked and shared and laughed at. Important information can be dished out quickly. Prayers posted. A call for help for food to a new mother issued. Missions trip update photos tagged for loved ones to see. It is all like a noisy, busy cafe with a lot of people catching up.

What your church website and social media are not

• “Set and forget.” You must maintain and update, keep things ticking over. The days of setting up a website and walking away from it are over.

• “News update only.” We all know church is so much more than getting people to attend events and programmes, so why do so many of our online interactions feel like they’re just ads?

Your church online presence can become a wonderful meeting point for people to engage and enjoy life

• “Embarrassing.” Ditch the clip art. New Zealand has a wonderfully trendy culture with fantastic design “looks” everywhere, so let's not have websites and online language that dates back to 1992 … #terracotta

• “Done on the cheap and easy.” A decent website is an investment. To keep being online well takes a plan, commitment to evolving and finding a person willing to do this for you.

What your church website and social media can be

• “A dynamic part of people’s online life.” Your church online presence can become a wonderful meeting point for people to engage and enjoy life in your church.

• “Inspiring, funny, pastoral, holistic . . .” Don’t just use your website for information, use it to engage people. Plug into the needs in your community, post something to laugh at together, Instagram the new best coffee place to be at, do pastoral care with people by messaging them and saying you’ve noticed and are thinking of them.

• “Cool.” Pick up some magazines and observe what things actually look like at the moment. How do TV ads for their new shows? This is always what is trending at the moment, so tap into that. Don’t build a new site or logo for your online apps that steps back in time; keep moving forward.

• “Invest.” This will involve spending money, finding a person to keep things happening and doing things you are told. When someone who knows how to communicate a message says, “This is how I need you to post on Facebook a bit more...” listen to their advice because Facebook posts aren’t the same as 40-minute sermons. Invest in learning how to work well with this incredible tool for communication.

So remember, we’re in the people business, and we’re in the communication business. The online world is where both of these things dynamically meet, and as church staff and leaders we must engage with it all, and engage well.

This all sounds rather interesting, what else is there to read on this?

I highly recommend http://churchmarketingsucks.com for plans, inspiration and discussion on how churches can improve their websites and online presence.

How to recruit volunteers

by Victoria Rankin, Urban Vineyard

Recruiting volunteers is essential for a work to be healthy, grow and multiply.

At Urban Vineyard, we talk about each of us recruiting three people – those who we notice are in church but not presently involved. We are intentional about involving others who attend regularly but are not enfolded in our community life. As “front half” of the church people (those involved, who attend regularly), we want to recruit those uninvolved “back half” of the church people.

This requires us to be proficient as leaders who can do what has been termed (in the Vineyard) IRTDMN (Identify, Recruit, Train, Deploy, Monitor, Nurture). In Urban Vineyard culture we have tweaked and rephrased this acrostic to – FIT DO (Find, Invite, Train, Deploy, Oversee).

Let me summarise the first two:

1.         Find

Be a people person. Never underestimate the power of building relationships with people before asking them to follow you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Mingle. Look out for new people, get to know them, remember names.

Take an Interest. Ask questions related to their life. Listen to people’s stories. John Maxwell says, “Effective leaders know that you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.”

Notice who you naturally connect with. They often become future co-workers, friends. Leadership flourishes within meaningful relationship, not mere regulations.

The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

Ask God to provide the right people at the right time. We frequently ask God for more helpers/workers and they may be in our community already.

Pray for divine appointments. Who are you noticing, who is popping up on your radar? Who is emerging that you can invite or call forward?

Church is not just for our friends. This is especially true for Sundays, which are work days for leadership teams. The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

There’s an old saying: “To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart.” Always (try to) touch a person’s heart before you ask them for a hand.

2.Invite

In John 1:37b, the disciple asks, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replies, “Come and you will see.”

Practise the same invitational, apprentice-based model found in the Gospels. Introduce new people to others you know with similar interests, gifts.

When inviting people to be with you in task/roles/ministry:

Be enthusiastic whatever the task! We are privileged as servants who lead. May this be catchy and infectious for those we recruit.

Match jobs/roles appropriately. Be aware of one’s personality, strengths and gift mix – eg, avoid putting a greeter on the door who feels uncomfortable around new people. Bad experiences can be a cause of withdrawal from further involvement. We ask newcomers (at our welcome evenings), “What do you love to do/have been involved with in previously in community life?” This identifies gifting and interest areas more quickly.

Show and tell. Be practical. Demonstrate in order for tasks to be understood and goals achieved. Use run sheets, provide lists or details for people.

Stay alongside, until they are proficient and glitches are sorted. Few sign up to serve alone, it’s more fun serving with others.

Communicate the complete description of responsibilities. Make sure you know what they are at the outset.

New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well.

Clarify expectations from each other to avoid resentment.

Don’t change the game plan half way through the task without communication.

Have a verbally contracted time commitment. Include a review date from the outset. This allows a more “Easy in, Easy out” – no pressure to stay to a task beyond the agreement.

Motivation rises when goals are understood. Once this is clear, give others room, creative space to follow through using their uniqueness.

Connect to the big vision.

Always debrief. A question like “What could we do better?” provides validation and welcomes shared ownership.

Receive feedback with humility, which allows room for constructive criticism. New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well. “The underlying idea is you recruit to Jesus. If you recruit to station, turf, title, anything else but Jesus, you're in big trouble!” (author unknown).

Celebrate the wins. Share stories, be an encourager to those you find and invite to serve. Thank people often.

Making the most of a public space

by Fran Francis of Shore Vineyards

Over 20 years’ experience in rented halls comes to you right here!

Use your senses: Sight (add light or colour). Smell (add a reed diffuser – not too feminine/flowery. Go for fresh). Sound (add floor coverings to help absorb sound). Feel (add screens/arrange seating in a way that feels humane). Taste (how’s the hospitality? Good coffee? Great baking?).

People don’t like to rattle around in a space that is too big, nor to be jammed into a space that is too small. People need about a square metre each to feel “just right”. If you don’t have that much room for each person – time to move! In fact, if your space is 70% full people will perceive it as too crowded so you will lose them.

If the space is big you have to make it more intimate and the best way is with screens. Large “office divider” screens arranged in a semi-circle at the end of the hall going lengthways will draw the eye to that point. That’s where the worship team will stand and you can arrange seating in one block or two (with a central aisle) according to your numbers and the kind of seats you have. Hessian from Spotlight or Harveys is an affordable way to change the colour scheme. Velcro strips along the top of the fabric, which just happens to be the perfect width for those screens, makes it easy to attach. You can then use this backdrop to hang a painting, an A1 poster that illustrates the sermon theme or hang a wreath at Christmas…

This semi-circle of screens can be placed as far forward or back in the space as you need. For example, in the summer numbers are often reduced while families are on holiday so move the screens forward to create a smaller gathering area and put out fewer chairs. On special days such as Christmas Eve or Easter, move it back so there is room to accommodate visitors.

Why a semi-circle? Because curves are organic and “friendlier” than hard lines.

Folding Japanese-style screens from The Warehouse or folding fabric screens off TradeMe are lightweight and relatively cheap. Use these to create the same effect if you don’t have access to 2m x 140 office screens. They are easier to store, which is often an issue in rented spaces.

Vintage standard lamps with or without shades are great for brightening the room. Or go for an industrial look if that fits better

Dampening sound on wooden floors can be achieved by using carpet runners. Anything from hardwearing rubber-backed “garage” carpet from The Warehouse to vintage Axminster-patterned hall runners could be considered. We have used a combination of charcoal grey rubber-backed commercial carpet with colourful Trade Aid rugs to cheer things up a bit. Make sure you eliminate trip and slip hazards – remember your “public liability”! We taped ours to the floor each week, covering sound leads and cords at the same time.

What’s the lighting like in your space? Too gloomy? Vintage standard lamps with or without shades are great for brightening the room. Or go for an industrial look if that fits better. The design rule for lighting is three points of light in a domestic room – scale it up for your space. In fact, three is pretty much the magic number. If you can’t afford a big semi-circle of screens, which would likely be seven, get three and space them out a little bit.

Make sure the tea and coffee area is attractive and accessibe. We used to use two vintage drop-sided wooden tables (easier storing) and coffee plungers, matching teapots and polka dot cake tins with the week’s baking in them. At another venue we used two trestle tables with covers made from coffee sacks to disguise the trestle. A layer of clear plastic from Spotlight protected the fabric from inevitable spills.

Change it up seasonally. How can you make it special for Holy Days? Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, baby dedications, Mother’s and Father’s Days, or special preaching themes. This is your shop window – dress it up!


Starting something new

by Lloyd Rankin, Vineyard national director

In his book The E-myth, Michael Gerber talks about the myth that you have to be a gifted entrepreneur to start a business.

Gerber found that entrepreneurs are often great at kicking something off, or having the initial idea, but often fail to turn the idea into a successful business. It takes planning, systems and work to make it fly.

From this, I would conclude that you have an advantage if you have a bit of an apostolic gifting – but that it isn’t necessary.

Remember, most churches in the book of Acts weren’t started by the apostles – they were started by ordinary believers who had been scattered all over Asia and just lived the new life among their community.

What makes you mad, sad or glad?

Starting something new is both a gift and a skill – gifts like faith, the prophetic and leadership; and skills such as courage, leadership, building team and casting vision.

Having said that, though, only a few great ideas ever come to fruition.

Most people have dreams, some people have visions, but not many do something with their dreams and visions.

So how do you know when to start something?

Often it comes in the form of what makes you mad, sad or glad.

When I became involved in church planting, it came after a period of frustration with the religiosity I found in church life when it came to bringing my friends. So I dreamed of starting a church that my friends could join, a church that had as many cultural barriers removed as possible (language, practices, focus etc).

My life of planting churches started from feeling sad and a bit mad. These days my motivation is much more about glad. I love seeing people come to Jesus in our churches and grow and do well in life.

It has been said to find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it. When we start something new we stand between two things – a perceived need and a possible and preferable answer to the need.

Once we have decided to start something, it’s helpful to clarify what we have heard. Is God saying you should do something? Is God saying you should join someone else who is doing something? Is God saying now or in the future?

We then crystallise the plan by sharing the dream with trusted people, though this also opens you to negative responses. However, sometimes the push back serves to clarify the vision.

Then we get to make a plan:

What: Start with the problem you hope to solve, or the need you hope to meet.

How: Then how will you do that.

Who: Who will you do it with

When: When will you do it

Where: Where will you do this

Why: Start with why and end with why.

Building a team becomes essential at this point. The most common mistake in starting something is not having enough people at the outset. Groups don’t form just because you put an advertisement in the newsletter or create a Facebook event.

Always begin with a minimum of five or six people if you are starting a small group, people you know will be there at the kickoff event. Give people a task to do, and they are much more likely to be there.

Set the timetable and goals and work to your plan, while remembering planning is everything but the plan is nothing.

Face your fears – fear of failure, fear of presumption, fear of it not working.

So go ahead and start! You never know how influential your great idea could be unless you try.

 

Becoming a church the unchurched love

by Mark and Tina Salisbury, of Journey Vineyard in Tauranga

God invites the church to be a place of worship, a place to gather, a place to celebrate, a place of teaching and discipleship . . . but also a safe place that He can bring the lost and broken who are desperately seeking.

The longer we attempt to do this at Journey Vineyard, the more we’re learning that unless you intentionally build culture (like becoming a church for the unchurched) into your church community, it probably won’t happen.

We want to be a church that creates a safe place for people who do not know the love of God to come and encounter His transforming power. We use the tagline “Belong, Believe, Become”.

We have three main points to share about creating a church culture the unchurched love:

Creating a culture of acceptance and grace

Jesus accepted us all – as is, where is. There weren't any conditions beyond, believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, for us to enter into relationship with Him. Isaiah 55 says to all who are thirsty, come to the waters and drink. We need to create a place that all who are being drawn to discover God are welcome.

Jesus accepted people exactly as they came to Him. He loved them where He found them and then transformed them with love and grace and truth. So should we.

But we can unknowingly place barriers in front of people who are seeking. They don't know our dress code, our language, our traditions, or culture. Coming to church for the first time is scary for those unfamiliar with it. They carry all kinds of assumptions and expectations of what we and God may think of them. It takes great courage or even desperation to walk through our doors. Will we judge them? Will we reject them? Are they good enough? We need to show them the same grace Jesus gave us.

Having a large front porch, wide front door environment allows people to discover or grow closer to Jesus in community.

Jesus accepted people exactly as they came to Him. He loved them where He found them and then transformed them with love and grace and truth. So should we.

We have been very intentional in creating a safe culture for people to come into, teaching our people to be welcoming of others however they come. One of the life groups we have run annually for those new to Journey Vineyard is called “No Perfect People Allowed”, taken from the book of the same title by John Burke. This tool has been a huge help to intentionally reinforce and promote our culture.

Creating a culture of being real (authentic)

Most of us when we were kids spent many hours pretending to be someone who caught our imagination – having super powers, being doctors, nurses, firemen, soldiers . . . pastors.

Unfortunately many adults carry on this behaviour into adulthood, wearing all sorts of masks and thinking they need to be something they aren’t. Even in our churches.

We challenge the “nice” answers and seek the “real” ones. We invite people into a place of authenticity.

It’s okay to struggle, to question, even to stumble. People are terrified that if they were to be real they wouldn’t be accepted, so they hide. They hide in plain site around us. But as we are real and they see a healthy community, where people may question and doubt and stumble, but they are surrounded, encouraged and supported to keep going and growing, they feel safe, the barriers come down, the masks begin to come off and lives are transformed.

Jesus said He came to set the captives free. And we don't think that only refers to our sinful natures, but also being released from expectations and burdens that others have put on us and we have put on ourselves.

We have found that people love and are attracted to a community that pursues being real with each other. It’s liberating for people when they hear that we, the leaders, or others in the community, haven't got it all together. It frees them to be real. We remind each other we are all on a journey and none of us has arrived yet.

Creating a loving community

On the last Sunday of each month we have a meeting that is a little different, where someone in our community shares their story. Perhaps it’s how they encountered Jesus, or maybe what He is doing in their life right now. After the message we have a shared meal. Sharing food together and the natural conversations that happen over a meal are fantastic ways to build relationships, friendships and generally get to know each other better.

We have found that people love and are attracted to a community that pursues being real with each other.

These are usually our biggest Sundays of the month and the ones where people bring their unchurched family and friends. The feedback from these guests is always so positive, and they often come back. As a wise pastor once told us, people may come for events or programmes, but they stay for relationships.

John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Another way we try to intentionally create a sense of community is beginning our time together with coffee and tea and mingling for 20 minutes before worship.

Over these few short years we have seen random acts of kindness spontaneously spring up as one family in need provides for another. We’ve seen people doing chores for others because they are on bed rest, food boxes delivered, countless meals provided, homeless youth given places to stay. To see this happen spontaneously is a sign of a healthy, loving community.

We are aware the church can be very big on truth and sometimes not so big on grace. We cannot be either/or. To become a church the unchurched love, we need to be both/and.

So let’s open the door wide, let’s allow the extravagant, lavish love of Jesus to pour through us, let’s lovingly engage the world around us and offer the broken and thirsty the Living Water they seek.

FAITH AND BUSINESS

by Phil Bull, CEO of Blue Barn Consulting and member of Coast Vineyard

Blue Barn Consulting provides engineering consulting advice to the public and private sector in areas of roads, pipes, land development, bridges, parks and buildings.

We have grown at meteoric speed some years and laid people off in others. We have had projects go swimmingly well with our clients loving everything we do and the odd one get mired in difficulties. We have been cash rich and cash strapped. For the record, cash-rich is better! We have struggled with poor work spaces, few resources and clunky systems and been blessed with the opposite.

Through it all, I have learnt to apply our company value of “People Matter” and trust God always – work my tail off, of course, sowing seed, but trust God always for the harvest.

For all of us, our businesses or places of work provide us tremendous opportunity to connect with non-church folk. And my work is very important to me. But in the very end I know I will be measured in terms of the people I have met and influenced and the faithfulness with which I have sought out and pursued God’s will for my life.

Let’s talk about business:

People and profits

If you think God is going to do all of the work in your business (or, in your life, for that matter) you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. You have to get into the game.

Although He would do a much better job Himself, He chooses almost always to work through His people in seeing His kingdom extended and His will outworked here on earth. There are all sorts of reasons for this but one of the biggies is that is how we grow. Our character is shaped through persistence in the face of adversity.

As business leaders we are being called on every day to make judgments often affecting real people and families and often in areas of grey. We need wisdom and courage in large doses.

In terms of hard work, business offers plenty. So if you are keen to grow in your faith I do not know a better place. It forces us all to be brutally honest with our performance – there is no hiding behind platitudes and visions if the business is losing money.

Let me make no bones about it – a business’ primary function is to make profit. If you are not making profit you are not in a business, you are in a hobby, and you better have some other way to make the money you need to live.

If you do not believe me, try this exercise: ask yourself a series of “how” questions in response to the “why you are in business”:

Why are you in business? To help people earn an income and support their families.

How will we do that? By serving our customers well with a product they love.

How will we do that? By hiring the best people in the game.

How will we do that? By paying them well and offering them an exciting career trajectory.

How will we do that? By being profitable and growing the business to provide career opportunities.

How will we do that? By investing in the business and a high-growth strategy.

How will we fund that? By being profitable.

Profit is the oxygen a business breathes. It is like any one of us – we need oxygen simply to live.

Once that is a given, we can work out our call, express our values, grow a family and hopefully make a meaningful contribution to the world we live in.

A business is very much the same. Once it is profitable (or “breathing”) it has life. Once it has life all sorts of opportunities open up: to open an office in a Third World country supporting the local communities with employment and business choices (perhaps providing a pathway to freedom for men and women caught up in human trafficking); or to invest in the R&D of a product that can simplify or improve people’s lives; or to give away to organisations and individuals doing great work in the prisons or with disaffected youth.

Profits often provide the mechanism to support the expression of our faith or calling. Or to support others in the expression of their faith.

And do not play games with profit. It has to be truly profitable to be a business. If you play games with the books – perhaps not drawing a market salary yourself and then declaring yourself profitable as a result – you are kidding yourself.

Keep the books clean. Pay your taxes. And remember that People Matter. If we ever lose sight of the fact that profit exists to serve a bigger purpose then we really have lost our way. It is never profit at all costs.

It is good for the soul to get to the end of a bruising week with difficult staff or losses on the P&L and sing praises to God that declare his provision in all things.

Always remember that we are blessed to bless. Money and riches in and of themselves are a meaningless and dead-end pursuit, even if they are being deployed for a grand purpose. We have only to look at Solomon’s well-funded pursuit of the meaning of life to see that. It’s all meaningless was his conclusion!

True contentment and happiness is only found in Him. Money will come and go; as will every single thing we may be tempted to place our trust in – our health, friendships, good name, family, bank account, business. The Bible’s wisdom is very clear – in the very end heaven and earth will be rolled up like an old cloak and it will pass away, only his Word remains.

As we enjoy blessings and our businesses prosper – remind yourself that making profit is not an end in itself. It is simply a “vital sign” that your business is alive. Now you can get on with the living itself – blessing others with what God has blessed you.

Running a business

So, how do we marry up our kingdom outlook with daily business needs?

First, and sorry to bang on - but do not lose sight of the profit imperative! Without profits you are seriously constrained in what you can do (at an organisational level) to express your faith or outwork your call or help people.

Second, remember that life is a series of moments. John Lennon said that, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” No matter what we do for a business, we all still have to get up every morning, put our work clothes on, kiss the wife or husband goodbye, drive to work and go about our day.

It is all well and good having a clever strategic plan and 5-year plan and vision statement and mission statement and the rest of it. And these things are all very good – in fact, imperative for a business with any aspiration at all.

Jesus went on a journey to Jerusalem. You might call it his strategic goal or mission. Yet along the way life happened – we know that he healed two men just out of Jericho, he met the Samaritan woman by the well and told her of her own life, and he told many parables.

It is safe to assume, too, that over the days the journey may have taken that everyday life happened. They ate, they walked, they talked. And in each of those moments there was an opportunity to express faith and build a little of God’s kingdom.

And each of these things may have been perceived as a distraction from the mission, whereas in fact they were the very fabric of the bigger mission of life.

“People Matter” is Blue Barn’s core value. How this works out in practice is in every moment of every day. We deal with clients and staff and partners and suppliers all day every day and we do our very best to ensure we treat all people with respect and dignity – remembering that we have to face our maker in the end.

Does this mean we are “soft”? Nup. Remember the first rule? If making profits is our oxygen, sometimes there are hard conversations with clients about extra payments for extra work requested; or with suppliers to drive down our costs; or with staff who didn’t get the desk space they wanted or salary increases they thought they deserved. Or, sometimes, layoffs because work has dried up.

But always, in the midst of this, we remember that God is above all and that He loves people. And we need to too.

Thirdly, get to church – recalibrate.

It is pretty tough out there sometimes. As business leaders we are being called on every day to make judgments often affecting real people and families and often in areas of grey. We need wisdom and courage in large doses to discharge our duty well before God and before men.

And it is very easy to lose our way. We are often surrounded by worldly thought and practice and this can innoculate us against God’s higher ways. Some practices that are not good can become quite normalised in our minds by the constant exposure.

The only antidote to this that I know is regular church attendance. And by regular I mean weekly. It is good for the soul to get to the end of a bruising week with difficult staff or losses on the P&L and sing praises to God that declare his provision in all things or hear a message of truth to counter the lies that may have confused you over the week.

I think of it as a recalibration. And of course it is good for us all, not just business people. I do know, however, how very essential it has been for me to keep me pointing north.

Fourth, seek counsel. And not always from church folk – although they can be helpful. Find the very best advice you can.

One thing I have observed is that successful, sustainable business usually follows some pretty biblical principles: expect profit (like the men with their talents) and if you do not get it from one area of the business cut it off (like the unfruitful branch); sowing and reaping; a soft answer turns away wrath; listen carefully, speak slowly; adopt a servant’s heart in your business …

It can be quite humbling really – there are many very good businesses out there without a shred of faith at their core outworking these kinds of principles very successfully because they work.