Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.
Business knowledge is sometimes shunned in Christian circles, thought to be inferior to Biblical wisdom. But business knowledge can teach us a lot about how to accomplish good in God’s kingdom, and the Bible doesn’t shy away from tying the two together. Jesus explained spiritual concepts using everyday examples that normal people could understand, and the parable of the talents is a business parable. As someone who’s lived in the business world for years, this parable brings a smile to my face. A wise investor is someone I really respect, and having a 100% ROI on something is truly remarkable.
So, being that today’s passage is a business parable, I’m actually going to go over some business wisdom that served me well in the business world, but can really serve anybody well in accomplishing God’s work and wisely investing their talents.
Pick One Thing and Be the Best
When you need a lawyer, you don’t look for a lawyer who also happens to be an excellent singer–you look for the best lawyer you can find. While there’s some worth in being good at a lot of things, you can generally get more accomplished if you get really good at a few things.
I realized pretty early on in life that I really cared about other people, so I decided that what I wanted to be good at was caring about people. I didn’t just try really hard to care about people, though–I took steps to get really good at it. I read books on psychology, philosophy, and leadership. I worked hard on developing my social and conversational skills (which doesn’t come easily to an introvert such as myself). I bought a house with an extra room so I could invite people in from time to time. I worked hard at my job to earn more money to spend on other people.
And it paid off. People frequently tell me that they feel better after talking to me, and a lot of people will call me first when they need help. I’m known for being really good at caring about people, and it’s great. God uses that because I worked hard to hone that skill and cultivate that passion.
For you, it might be caring, or it might be problem-solving, or it might be teaching, or playing music, or organizing events. There are a lot of things it could be. It’s just important that you pick one thing and completely dive into it. Learn as much about it as you can, make yourself as available as possible to do this thing, and pray for God to give you opportunities to use this to help other people.
Take Calculated Risks
A lot has been said on taking risks–that’s one of the main take-aways of the parable of the talents, after all. But simply being risky isn’t enough. It pays to take good risks and avoid the bad ones. This doesn’t at all mean you need a 100% success rate, but it should mean that you win more than you lose.
Going into anything, consider three factors: the cost, the potential loss if things go wrong, and the potential gain if things go right. One surprising thing is that, in most non-financial decisions, that second factor is negligible. It still has to be calculated and considered, but most of the time, it’s a lot smaller than we initially fear it will be.
If you’re wondering, the cost in most cases is simply time. It’s said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. This is because, in the time it takes you to eat that free lunch, you’re giving up time that could have been spent on accomplishing something greater. Time is something we’re constantly spending, so make sure that you’re actually investing your time and getting the most return on that investment. What can you spend your time on that would bring about the most good?
There’s no real way to formulate this and use it to accurately predict the success or failure of any investment. That’s not the point. The point is that you just need to be thinking about these things before you jump in. Simply taking the time to do this can have a dramatic positive effect on your successful time and energy investments.
Be Easy to Work With
A while back, as a manager of a small design and development team, the mission for my team was two-fold. One was to be really good at our job. That’s just a given. The other part was to be one of the easiest teams to work with in the entire company. This was not easy with the amount of stress that ran through our team. I had to motivate others to want to be easy to work with, and I had to lead by example.
This paid off. Word spread about how great we were to work with, and people made it known that we were one of the best parts of working there. It got to a point where people were even coming to me for things that weren’t our responsibility because other teams weren’t as responsive or passionate about their work. (This wasn’t always a good thing, but the sentiment was nice!)
The point is, people will come to you a lot more often if they know that you will put them first. It takes humility and discipline to make it known that your helping people is in no way about you or your own gratification. But this is where you start seeing the most good. If you’re a volunteer, make sure you’re the volunteer the volunteer coordinator never has to worry about. If you’re helping others, don’t fish for compliments or expect favors in return. You may think that no one notices when you casually insert your own wants and desires into the equation, but most people do notice, and it can quickly make the other person feel bad about asking for help in the first place.
Know What Success Looks Like
I used to work in landing page marketing. Every one of our websites had a conversion rate–an actual number that told us how well our site was performing. Suddenly, designs weren’t just about making pretty pictures and new pieces of functionality weren’t just about impressing other developers–there was a grand purpose for everything we did on these sites, and that purpose was increasing that number. Some say it sapped the romance out of design, but it gave us fantastic purpose, and we actually knew when we were doing well.
A while back, I met someone else who also did online marketing.
“What are your goals?” I asked him.
“Awareness,” he said.
And that was it. There was no way to know if he’d succeeded because he hadn’t defined what success looked like.
Without taking this vital step, it can be very easy to focus so hard on doing something that we forget that it’s not just about doing something, it’s about accomplishing something. Hard goals aren’t as fun as just doing whatever we feel like, but they keep us focused and allow us to push ourselves to be better.
If your thing is caring about others, make a goal to mentor or meet with someone a certain number of times per month. If your thing is teaching or training, make a goal to spend so much time each week learning new things. If your thing is planning events, partner with departments in the church and push to plan one (or more!) event per year to raise money or awareness.
If you fail, don’t worry–keep going! It’s better to know what success looks like and occasionally fail than to never know if you’ve succeeded.
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.