Saturday, March 19, 2005

Non-Profit Venture

In my classes I require my students to give me “interactive papers.” I give them an article to read, on subjects that range from culture theory, animism, living overseas etc., to supplement classroom lectures. By requiring them to interact with the articles they are forced to think through the issues of the article, not just read it. It’s a good practice, and something I do often in my own reading.

I’m presently reading, Finishing Well: What People Who REALLY Live Do Differently, by Bob Buford. In interviewing several prominent people who are living beyond success to significance, Peter Drucker makes this comment on the motivation for those who are involved in non-profit activities.

Business supplies…either good or services. Government controls. A business has discharged its task when the customer buys the product, pays for it, and is satisfied with it. Government has discharged its function when its policies are effective. The “non-profit”” institution neither supplies goods or services nor controls. Its “product” is neither a pair of shoes nor an effective regulation. ITS PRODUCT IS A CHANGED HUMAN BEING [emphasis mine]. The nonprofit institutions are human-change agents. Their “product” is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.

As I read Drucker’s words I thought, “That’s what I do.” While some may call me a missionary, a teacher or trainer in cross-cultural church planting, one could also say that I am in a non-profit business to change the lives of human beings. Thirty-five years ago I went into ministry for one reason, to make a difference in the lives of others by telling them about them about Jesus Christ, and the peace that He gives to those who accept Him as their Savior. It’s not an occupation that is monetarily profitable and, like all in my profession, finding people to support my non-profit activities is challenging and wearing. But the rewards of my work, and those who support this effort, go far beyond financial benefits. God has called all of us to live lives of be change agents in making a difference in the lives of others. It’s a noble calling. It’s a noble pursuit.

The next time you see a missionary presentation, perhaps it would be helpful not to see them as merely trying to raise support. Perhaps a better perspective is to see them as a member of a non-profit venture seeking ways to help people, both now and for eternity. You will get a tax write-off and help point people to the Savior in the process.