Monday, February 18, 2013

Watching the numbers

Most blogs, including this one, have a reporting feature that allows you to see how many people have viewed any particular post and when they did so. It can be a useful tool for determining which topics are resonating with your audience and which aren't.

These reports can tend to produce a rather euphoric condition when some posts get significantly more web traffic than average, but the opposite is also true: if there are less page views than normal, it can be a temptation to want to throw in the towel altogether.

Watching your ministry "fund balance" is similar. For many fundraisers, there is one or perhaps a few times each year when your fund balance begins to climb. (This is often around the end of the year, but it may also happen when annual donors send in gifts.) It seems like much of the year, however, the trend is generally downward.

This may be a sign that you need to raise additional support. It may mean that you have delinquent donors to follow up with. Or it may just be that most of your funding comes in spurts, so naturally the rest of the year tends to trend downward. (All three of those things are true of me right now!)

Rather than thinking rationally about those possibilities, however, I usually just react emotionally the moment I see the latest report. If my fund balance is heading upward at that moment, I'm tempted to put my feet up and stop fundraising altogether. "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry!" (Luke 12:19) If it's trending downward, however, I immediately assume that the world is ending. The trajectory will no doubt continue to plummet and I'll end up living in a cardboard box. I'll say to myself, "God has surely forsaken me! Woe, woe to me! I'm going to go from zero to box in 2.7 weeks! All is lost!"

But maybe you're holier than I am. If so, you can move on with your day now. If you ride the same emotional roller-coaster I do, however, let's look together at three Biblical truths that can help us:

You'll never have enough

Billionaire John D. Rockefeller was once asked, "How much money is enough?" He responded, "Just one dollar more." How true! How many page views would truly satisfy me? At what point would I know I had enough funding? Even if I had a truly viral post or received a $1M gift, I'd still keep looking to the next one because the results wouldn't last.

The truth is that deep within all of us is a God-given longing for something more. The question to ask ourselves is, what is that something? Unless your answer is "Jesus Christ", you'll always be left unsatisfied. You'll never have enough.

God loves the rebound

I don't claim to understand this completely, but God loves the rebound. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's turning an upward trend downward or turning a downward trend upward - the Bible is full of God doing both.

Perhaps it's because God is so opposed to the proud but so gracious to the humble (James 4:6) that He causes the strong to be brought low. Perhaps it's because He is glorified when weak men demonstrate His power (1 Cor 1:26-2:5). Perhaps it's because our favorite Bible stories are of the very low skyrocketing to fame, like the armor-less shepherd slaying the giant with a stone or of the unarmed slaves escaping countless Egyptian chariots through a wall of water. Whatever the reason, God loves turning things around. So it shouldn't surprise us when He rebounds our blogging influence or our financial security.

Your value is not in the numbers

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) Did you catch that? Jesus emphasizes that the flock was not large but the reward could not be greater. God does not give proportionally as we might expect. That's because our value is not in what we have or what we create or even how many of us there are. Our worth is in His sovereign choice to love us. He decided this before we had anything at all - yes, before we were even born.

The impact of this blog and the state of my fundraising is already known to the Lord and He will accomplish exactly what He wants in exactly the way He wants at exactly the time He wants.  My degree of euphoria or depression as a result of watching the numbers while this take place makes no difference whatsoever.

These are wonderful truths worth considering regularly. May we all have a response of faith to trust in Him next time we see our reports, regardless of which direction they're trending.

Unless this blog entry doesn't go viral. Then I'll throw in the towel ;)