Most of my adult life, I have been tasked with setting priorities and making and prioritizing choices. I would like to give you three examples and see what you think. (Read to the end to see the spiritual application).
1. Business Priorities
I have been in the business of running an insurance agency, dealing with agents, customers and insurance companies. In order to be efficient and successful, setting priorities was very important. I had to decide who serve first, our agents, our companies or our customers.
A. My choice was to always serve the customer first. They were my top priority.
How did I decide this? (a). Nobody got paid until the customer bought something. And, in order to have a loyal customer, I had to make sure they got the best products, the best service and fair treatment. (b). Besides, ethically, it is the right thing because they had put their trust in me, my agents and my business.
Then came the question of the customer’s ‘wants and needs’. Customers (clients) would often say “I want such-and-such” but my evaluation suggested their “need was greater or less than their wants”. So, how did I decide what to sell my customer? Ask questions and seek a balance. I had to make sure they could afford the product and get the proper amount of coverage so the benefits could meet their survivor’s needs, if required.
B. Our agents were as important as our customers, but I had to place them in second place of priority.
How did I decide this? (a). Nobody got paid until our agents sold something; but that, notwithstanding, unless the customer bought, the agent could not make that sale. (b). I provided my agents training, good companies and good products and leads to customers so they could sell. There was a shared expense: my money and expertise, the agent’s sales abilities and expertise.
Then came the question of the agent’s ‘needs and wants’. Our agent’s wants almost always were greater than their needs, especially in the case of lower cost products and higher commissions. So, how did I decide what to give our agents? Ask questions and seek a balance. I had to make sure they could sell our products and make enough money to support themselves their families and have money left over; in other words, so they could make a great living.
C. Our Companies were very important to our success, our agent’s success and or our customer’s needs. But, they come in third.
How did I decide this?
(a). The companies were well financed, had great leadership and were experts at dealing with risk, money, agents, agencies and the insurance buying public. Insurance companies know how to take care of themselves.
(b). I needed to find companies who would meet our market and marketing demographics,
(c) who would partner with us and
(d). Had great products and great commission structures. Then came the question of the Company’s ‘needs and wants’. I had to decide if the company’s products and sales support was sufficient for our agent’s and our agency to meet the minimum sale quotas and if we could reach levels of sales which would produce bonuses for our agent’s and our agency. How did I do this? By asking questions and finding a balance between the ‘needs and wants’ which would require commitment, loyalty and hard work.
Our Agency and our Agents held top spots in production, customer retention and personal incomes for many years. In other words, the holding the right priorities bring great results.
2. Youth Soccer coaching
The business of coaching and running a soccer team, dealing with parents, players and the Soccer organization or school was much like running a business. In order to be efficient and successful, setting priorities was very important. I had to decide a priority of whom to serve first, our players, the player’s parents or our organization.
As I thought about this, I realized coaching and running a team was similar to running a successful business. Good planning, the right priories and great results! Our teams consistently place in the top echelon of our programs and leagues.
3. Church Priorities
Many churches have adopted working business models over the last twenty-five years. And, my experience is that far too many churches and church leaders have modeled their priorities similar to that of a business.
I have been in the position as an Associate pastor in a small to medium-sized church as wells as running a small ministry, dealing with Christians and visitors, staff members and the corporate-political-organizational church.
In order to be efficient and successful, setting priorities was very important. I had to decide who to serve first, the church staff, the members and visitors or God’s Word.
A. My first choice is to always serve God and His Word. God and His Word are always top priority. This is not a difficult decision.
How did I decide this?
(a) The Bible instructs us to serve God first and only.
Leviticus 18:4 says, ‘You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. Verse 5. ‘So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.”
Matthew 4:8 says, “For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”
(b) The Bible instructs us that the Bible is a “Lamp unto our feet”, is without any error and is dependable.
Psalms 119:105, tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”
(c) Understanding what the Bible says and what the Bible requires, makes prioritizing clearer.
Joshua 1:8, says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
(d) By being faithful in my service to God.
Psalms 119:106, says, “I have sworn, and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.”
Matthew 25:21 says, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Then comes the question of ‘wants and needs’.
A. There really is no question here. I may have some preferential wants and supposed needs, but what God wants and needs (requires) of me is all that matters IF I WANT TO PLEASE HIM AND IF I WANT SUCCESS.
Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
B. The Christian’s (The Church) priority, between worldly needs and wants / personal needs and wants, is always present. In the postmodern world, the church has become a consumer oriented. You can shop for the church of your choice, meeting your specific needs. So, how do you balance a Christian’s needs and wants versus God’s Word and His model for His Church?
How do I decide this? There is only One choice. It’s all about God. His Word is perfect, and Jesus has already demonstrated the model. We follow Him and His Ways, so, I need to be a good and faithful servant to God, His ways, His methods and His plans. So, the second priority is to God and His Word. Why? Because God always has His Priorities right. His priorities must be my priorities.
C. Priority of the Organizational church. There are duties and tasks in the ministry of organizing the Body-politic of the church. But, that is only for human convenience and efficiency. God’s Word directs us on our service to the organization structure.
How do I determine this? The third priority in ministry is the same as the FIRST PRIORITY and the SECOND PRIORITY: God and His Word – always.
GOD has already set all our priorities in order, whether in business, church, worship, sports, marriage, child rearing, social constructs, politics, matters of health, education, etc.
Priorities in Ministry to God, His Church and the ‘organizational church’ begin and end with God alone as priority. Then, He tells us:
Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
Sola fide: “faith alone”
Sola gratia: “grace alone”
Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone” (Gotquestions.org on the five Solas)
What have we learned?
1. God has set the standard and the priority and given us “The Model”, which is Jesus. Anything less is evil. (Yes, I’ve said it: Anything less is evil)
2. Ministry to God and His Church cannot be compromised and must not be run as a business model because that just will not reach His Desired Results of making disciples who, in turn, make disciples for His Service and His Glory.
3. Any deviation, any compromise is an abhorrent departure from God’s Perfect Ways, His Perfect Will, His Perfect Method and His Perfect Plan.
So, if you are ever in doubt: Just Don’t!
Your Brother and Friend,
I am simply pointing out what God says will bring Him success in your service to Him. You can do it your own way and think you have found a better way. But, again, GOD SAYS, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12. So, you choose.