August 8, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      When summer comes along, I have a set of encouraging suggestions I love to pass along. I anticipate that the people in my network of relationships are coming-off busy years, fraught with more demand than capacity; one measure of that is an growing pile of good books - to say nothing of the Good Book - that have yet to be cracked. Guilt has replaced anticipation regarding the wisdom of the ages ... and of this moment in time. My counsel to my colleagues: find a beach, slather with SPF30 ... and start catchin' up on your reading ...

      This summer, I've added an attachment to that counsel: keep your Blackberry powered-up ... and watch for each week's Point of View, and add a page to your reading regimen each week. Here it is: Installment #3 of the Six Part Series, working through the Five Drucker Questions for Kingdom Leaders (my title; his questions!). Last week, we explored the What is our Mission? opener. Today, it's Who is our customer?

      Some purists will repel immediately, unable to find "customer" in their concordance. "What are you doing, bringing business lingo into the realm of spirituality?" would be the attack. Truth is, "the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light" (Jesus, in Luke 16:8) Shank's paraphrase: business people are more effective in what they do than Christian people are in what they do ... and that's no compliment. The Kingdom needs to learn shrewdness from the Marketplace ...

      Who is our customer? Sweeping, universal answers are much more comforting in exploring that issue than more specific, personally-defining ones. If you have decades of Bible outlines loaded on your hard drive, you might answer this godly gameshow question with "the whole world." If pressed, you might even offer the proof-text of the Great Commission: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." If you are the leader of all of God's ground forces, currently alive in faith, that's a good answer. If you are less-than-that (and, you are!), the question really becomes, "What is your niche?" What slice of "the whole world" is the populace you are out to engage, on behalf of the Kingdom?

      During the three years of Jesus' earthly ministry, his answer to the question was clear: his customer was the Jews. When he sent the Twelve out on their "see if you can do it without me" missions trip, he gave them this target: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) Later, a Canaanite woman (think: Palestinian) came to Jesus seeking help for her demon-possessed daughter. His initial response was telling: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 15:24) Indifferent? Not at all (read on: he responded to her faith, and healed her daughter). Not indifferent: instead, focused.

      For Jesus, the Jewish community received "first right of refusal" to his role of Messiah. For three years, he held his arms out to God's Chosen People. After three years, they took those outstretched arms and nailed them to the crosspiece of a Roman instrument of execution. "No thanks," was their response.

      Forty days later, Jesus expanded the target: "... you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8). The customer for the Kingdom was broader than Jesus' customer target during his time here ...

      Jesus knew who his customer was: Jews, period. In The Master's Program, our customer target is Christians who are leaders; more have careers in the Marketplace than in the Ministry, but we serve both. We design our ministry to be effective to leaders; in the process, we occasionally offend managers. They are our "Canaanites;" certainly important to God, but outside our bulls eye. We can't do everything, so we specialize in leaders ...

      What is your prospect profile, regarding what you do in the Kingdom? Do you know when to say "no?" Do you know who to pursue? Are you confident enough in your calling to narrow your focus to the few, rather than claiming to be equally effective with everyone? Who is your customer?

Bob Shank

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