Thursday, October 27, 2016

Evaluating a Ministry, Part 7 (Conclusion)

This post is the final of a seven-part series which has looked at the evaluation of Jesus’ ministry through the eyes of the participants in Mark 8. The basis for this series came from a student questioning me on how to properly evaluate a ministry. Ultimately, evaluation comes down to expectations, performance, and perspective. The problem is that most people only evaluate based on their perspective of performance. Unfortunately, a major reason is a lack of expectations (or of making them known). As I consider this issue, I must admit my own neglect of expectations in certain areas and have set in place a process to correct that neglect.

In Mark 8, the participants are the Pharisees, disciples, the crowd, Jesus, and God (as Father). All evaluated Jesus, but none but God and Jesus had any idea what the expectations were. The others allowed their preconceptions to provide their false perspectives onto Jesus’ ministry and purpose. Their understanding was incomplete, at best. But Jesus knew the Father’s expectations, and as was expressed last week, was obviously meeting them for God to tell the three disciples on the mountaintop with Jesus, “This is My beloved Son;  listen to Him” (Mark 9.7).

In short, the effective evaluation of a ministry must include:

1) Expectations. Both the party responsible for the work and those evaluating should know these before the evaluation begins and should agree on them accordingly. Letting the person performing the ministry have input in establishing the expectations is very beneficial as well. Without clearly defined expectations the other two elements are merely based upon opinions and therefore can never truly be evaluated.

2) Performance. The person must perform. But the time involved in evaluation should be considered in this area as well. Guidelines and timelines should definitely be established. But ministry cannot be evaluated as easily as math. One plus one always equals two, but being effective and affecting the lives of others is not so easily calculated. Thus, even with clearly defined expectations, performance may vary depending on a number of factors which should not be considered in the evaluation process.

3) Perspective. Regardless of the expectations, perspective does still matter. But perspective can be, and should be, guided by prayer. Are own perspective (perceptions) may cause us to interpret some matter incorrectly. This is not to imply a need to judge by the letter of the law, nor by the intent of the law. My point is that an effective evaluation must be done by applying the right Spirit to the right law (expectation), and thus prayer must be involved.

More could be said, and maybe I will address this further later. But to close, I want to provide a bit more clarity on this entire series by briefly considering a statement all believers desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

This simple statement captures the essence of expectations, performance, and perspective.

Expectations: The words “well” and “good” (if not “faithful”) clearly reveal that the expectations were met, and therefore were at least inferred, if not known.

Performance: “Done” means that the task is complete.

Perspective: “Servant” (and I would add “faithful” here) means that the motive was not just to labor for a master, but to honor the master’s intent. Thus, the perspective of both the servant and the master are in relative harmony here.

One final note about this statement. The words are not “Fast done, good and faithful servant.” Fast equates to efficiency; well equates to effectiveness. Ministry will never be efficient, though certain tasks may be completed efficiently, and certain jobs may require efficiency. But ministry as a whole, should be measured in effectiveness, not how quickly things are done.

In closing, all Christians are called to minister (maybe vocationally, maybe not). As Paul said, church leaders are to equip the saints to “do the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4.13). So, if that is the case, how is it progressing? I would suggest that the answer will depend on whom you ask (as this series has shown). Some will suggest you are doing well (maybe Great!), others will say you are lacking in many ways. Still others, may say you are a failure. The truth is to those different people – based upon their perspective, some truth may be found in any of those statements. Therefore, you must seek to know which feedback is constructive and which is not.

Even if the ministry is already established, but especially if you are entering a new opportunity, seek to clarify expectations. Perhaps, you may be able to help craft them. If so, be honest, and challenge yourself, because ultimately it is God whom you are serving. And that is the greatest purpose of these posts. Whatever those around you may say – good or bad – remember that, ultimately, it is God that is the true evaluator of a ministry. And it is He from whom we long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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