“Wow! I am not used to that kind of acceleration and power … ,” I muttered to myself in my empty rental car on a recent business trip. My “sports car” rental provided a much different driving experience than my four-cylinder economy car back home. Normally, when I step on the gas in my economy car, the engine roars, but the car struggles to go. In this rental car, stepping on the gas brought instant acceleration.
How does the leadership of your ministry view you and your finance team? When your leaders have a ministry idea and they come to finance to help make it happen, what do they experience? Are you responsive like my rented sports car, or are you sluggish like my economy car? Too often, finance is viewed as the place that slows down ministry from happening. What if partnering with finance was viewed the same way as driving a sports car? I believe it can be, because I have seen it happen at Cru and in the New Testament.
Early in the book of Acts we see the growth of the new church. When you get to chapter 6, verse 1, it says “ … the number of disciples was increasing … ” and further on in verse 7 it says “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly … .” From verse 1 to verse 7, there is acceleration in the growth of the church. It went from increasing to increasing rapidly. What happened between verse 1 and verse 7 can give us insight into how our roles in finance (or operations in general) can help to accelerate our ministries.
With the growth of the church, there arose a need for organization. People were bringing money, food, and other goods to the disciples to help with the church. At the same time, other people who had needs were coming to the disciples to receive help. The disciples, realizing they couldn’t do everything themselves, asked for seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to “wait on tables”(verses 2-3).
The reference to tables likely refers to a collection bank. In other words, they needed people to oversee the collection and distribution of money and goods for the church. With this simple act of organization, they saw acceleration in the growth of the church!
Two points resonate with me from this passage.
1. The criteria they used for selecting the seven were those who were full of the Spirit and wisdom.
They didn’t look for the most organized or learned. They wanted those who the Lord was fully empowering. When I evaluate people for openings on my team, I place a premium on character. There is a baseline of expertise we need, but the priority is finding people full of Spirit and wisdom. It is imperative that I am living that same kind of life and modeling it for my team. When I work in my own strength, I am destined to run out of gas. However, when God is working in and through me, my work is fueled with high octane power. When my team sees God at work in and through me, it spurs them on to do likewise.
2. How the role of finance is very similar to the work the seven were asked to do — oversee the collection and distribution of money and goods.
We remind ourselves in Cru that our finance office doesn’t exist for our own benefit. We exist for the benefit of the ministry. The seven in Acts were selected because the church needed them to lead and organize a function so the work of the church could continue to move forward (verse 4). In the same way, we provide services and organize systems so the ministry can fulfill its mission. It is important to remember that the ministry doesn’t exist for finance, but finance exists for the ministry. We strive to have our ministry view finance as an accelerator propelling Cru toward the fulfillment of our mission.
As my business trip came to an end, I had to turn in my sports car rental and return to my economy car reality. Though I don’t normally drive a sports car, I can experience that kind of power and acceleration in my finance role every day, and so can you. As we trust God to fill us with his Spirit and wisdom, he will use us in our financial roles to accelerate our ministries toward the mission.
Mark Tjernagel is the CFO of Cru (cru.org) and has served with the ministry for more than 23 years. He and his wife Colette reside in Orlando and have four children. Mark also serves on the board of directors for Christian Leadership Alliance. This is an except from the 2014 Summer edition of Outcomes Magazine.
Register by June 30 for The Outcomes Conference: CLA Dallas 2015 and SAVE. This conference will offers numerous biblically-based educational sessions on ministry financial management as well as seven the other disciplines sure to strengthen the effectiveness and impact of your organization.