Overcoming Measurement Objection 1: God’s activity is not easily detectable or definable

In yesterday’s post we proposed that Transformational Giving involves a repentant turning away from measuring human (organizational) strength and health and power (which is exactly what traditional/transactional fundraising measures) and turning toward measurements we make of God’s divine strength and health and power that are presently observable in our champions and partners in relation to the cause God has given us to steward.

We noted three philosophical objections to this approach that we need to deal with before we flesh out the practical workings of such a system.

The first is the idea that God’s activity is not easily detectable or definable (especially as compared to traditional transaction fundraising measurements like gross income, recency/frequency/monetary categorizations of giving, and wealth screenings).

This is the criticism of pragmatism, to which we now turn our attention.

Have you ever considered that Jesus began his public ministry by announcing a standard of measurement related to Himself?

According to Luke 4:14-21, that’s exactly what happened:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

This was more than Jesus’ opening monologue, as is clear a few chapters later when an imprisoned John the Baptist asked whether Jesus was The One. Of all the ways Jesus could have responded, isn’t it fascinating in Luke 7:18-23 that Jesus responded…by making reference to his earlier measurement?

John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

And lest any of us protest, ‘Well, yeah, but that was Jesus!“, he foreclosed that option in John 14:12:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

In fact, He indicated in Matthew 7:15-20 that both the fruit of following Him–and the fruit of not following Him–would be observable not only to God, but to discerning believers:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them [emphasis mine].

Someone might quote John 3:8 (“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”) to suggest that God’s activity is not easily detectable or definable. But in that verse Jesus is not claiming that we won’t recognize God’s work when we see it; rather, He is claiming that God’s work is not subject to human structures or boundaries–another blow to traditional/transactional fundraising (ttf) measurements, which only measure activity within the human structure/boundary known as the nonprofit organization.

For example, if a champion gives money to the cause outside of the nonprofit organization, no ttf measurement will detect it nor care to, except it register (ironically) as a failure or a lost opportunity–a gift we didn’t get.

By contrast, TG’s measurement of God’s activity in champions and partners does not require that the activity happen through the nonprofit, because TG measurements are measurements of God’s activity in the organization’s champions and partners, not in the organization itself. The organization is just the tomato trellis–vital to the growth of healthy tomatoes, but not the subject of our measurements (except–and we’ll cover this down the road–insofar as we seek to determine if we are an effective trellis).

This is a second stark contrast between TG and ttf measurements: Not only are ttf measurements focused on human strength and health and power (whereas TG measurements are focused on God’s strength and health and power), but

  • ttf measurements are trained on the organization
  • TG measurements are trained on the organization’s champions and partners

Others might protest that Jesus’ statement in John 20:29, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, is an admonition against looking for observable proof of God’s presence. But note that Transformational Giving measurement is not measurement designed to produce belief in unbelievers; instead, it is a process of collaborative measurement and discernment undertaken by a Christian ministry and its individual champions and partners that is designed to help those specific champions and partners grow to full maturity in Christ in relation to the cause.

In other words, what’s at issue in TG measurement is not conversion but sanctification.

In Matthew 13:31-33 Jesus tells parables about yeast and mustard seeds, two entities barely observable at first. Two lessons can be drawn:

  1. God’s work in the lives of our champions may be barely observable at first, but it is well worth our keen observation;
  2. By God’s grace that barely observable work can grow until it is apparent to everyone.

So yes, it is true that God’s work in the lives of our champions may not initially be visible to the naked or untrained eye. This is exactly why Jesus exhorts us in Mark 13:37:

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’

And so does The God of Measure-become-flesh overcome Objection 1 and command us to train our attention–and, yes, even (and perhaps especially) our development measurements–away from human strength and health and power and toward God’s own activity in relation to the cause, slowly beginning to emerge into the visible realm in the lives of our champions and partners.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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