Small business, small church 2

I was thinking more about the small business, small church analogy I mentioned a couple entries ago. I’ve been thinking about some new aspects of it, based on things I’ve learned recently.

It started out with a reflection on the big picture of the work I’m doing in my job. I’m doing what Jake used to spend a lot of time doing: paperwork with regard to daily business operations. Sometimes he would get snarled unexpectedly and a tiny mistake in data entry would cost hours of time. But now that I’m taking care of that, it has enabled Jake to concentrate his efforts on working out details for business development: thinking about how to expand our customer base and advertise beyond word-of-mouth, how to work out business deals with other companies, how to make operations more efficient now and more scalable for the future. I began to see, even if sometimes I am bored or feel like the things I am doing aren’t as “cool” or sophisticated as the things Jake does, I am still contributing in allowing him and other managers to concentrate on other aspects of the business, things that need to be dealt with in order for the company to grow.

I’m beginning to understand in small part how the poverty trap works in countries of extreme poverty, as the economist Jeffrey Sachs writes about. At extreme poverty, everyone is expending their energy and labor just to survive, just to fill their stomachs with food, just for that day that they’re living, that they have no time or energy to put into investing into the future. Even if Jake had all these plans for how to take the business to new heights (which he probably did), there was just no time for him to work on them, having to deal with all the annoying invoices and bills and bank reconciliations. But now that I can do it, he is free. Sachs mentions the kick start that the extreme poor need in order to escape the poverty trap. They need external monetary aid so they can stop worrying about just “getting by.”

There is a kind of trap like this at my church, I think. I feel like my work at church is only subsistence. I want so much to be free to do more than that. And based on the knowledge I’ve gained about my personality and spiritual gifts through handling my current responsibilities, I would even prefer to be the guy that does the grunt work and does it consistently so that another person can be free to do the visioneering.

A business needs capital to start something new. New ventures will require funding and float time until they get up and running enough to sustain themselves and produce a return on their original investment. Although the analogy isn’t perfect, the members of a church are like investors. The church needs their financial support to exist and to expand. In our case, expansion would be getting a full-time EM pastor. But there is a vicious cycle at work. Right now, there aren’t enough people in the KM and not enough giving to support a full-time pastor. And not having an established EM may be turning away seekers who are looking for a church that can take care of their kids (I could write another entry on how I hate that Korean parents expect the church to raise their kids for them). And so, we’re stuck, because if there are fewer people, there’s less giving, and there’s no pastor. If there’s no pastor, there are fewer people, which means less giving.

Do you see how the same cycle could apply, but in the positive respect for big churches? People are drawn to the bigger churches because they have more ministries and resources and because they are more established in their leadership. Reality LA is exploding right now, so much so that Pastor Tim Chaddick wants the church to stop growing so fast. Even though his preaching can be pretty intense and confrontational, and even though only a tiny percentage of the attendees tithe regularly, there is a solid core foundation of leadership that allows for vision building (from what I understand, at least). Bigger churches get bigger, and smaller churches get smaller. Rich countries get richer, and poor countries get poorer. It’s a sad reality.

One random bit I want to write about is that the more time I spend at my job, the more I realize how little street smarts I have. If I think long, I can come up with many specific examples, but this is getting long as it is. I know a lot of the knowledge some of my friends have is because they learned it from their upbringing. I don’t regret my upbringing, but when I compare it to kids who had parents in professional careers or blue-collar jobs or whose parents owned restaurants, I am lacking. But I have a knowledge that not many people have. The knowledge that I have from growing up as a pastor’s kid at a small church has given me a perspective that not many people know or understand. And I think it’s also something that a lot of Christians don’t appreciate. I think that’s why my blog has taken the direction that it has since I started it…because I feel like so many people are ignorant about the particular burdens that PKs (Korean American PKs?) face. Maybe a lot of PKs themselves don’t really know either, or at least how to get people to understand it. For me, it goes much deeper than the typical PK church drama. It was never drama for me. It was something else. I hope those who have kept up with this blog have a better sense of that now.

Much to learn…


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