AN EXPRESSION frequently heard in business circles is "management by objectives." This refers to the managerial process of defining objectives and then devising ways and means to reach these goals. The principle is— decide what you want to accomplish and then figure out how to do it; decide where you want to go and then figure out how to get there.
Certainly this principle applies to the Lord's work. The greatest business of all—His business— requires the best of managerial skills.
Our objectives are clearly defined in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings. We are to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), to "carry The Word of God to every man's door" (Evangelism, p. 434).
These are over-all objectives. The next step is to redefine these objectives in terms of the area of our responsibility. Which specific people and which specific doors am I responsible for?
With the gospel commission in mind we have a world organization, the General Conference, which is subdivided into divisions, unions, local conferences, and districts. At this point our organizational plan seems to break down in many cases. Within the district we seldom find a subdivision of territory specific enough to encourage efficient work. The result is similar to what might be expected if a conference president were to exhort his workers to service without assigning any specific territories— extreme inefficiency.
The answer, of course, is to assign territories within the districts and specific responsibilities within these territories. In some instances the church membership will not be large enough to cover all its territory. It will prove best not to assign unrealistically large territories. As the work grows it can be extended to unentered areas. If we are ever to reach our objective it is better to make a beginning and cover only a fraction of our territory than to cover none at all.
It is almost unbelievable that an organization recognizing its objective and obligation to "carry the Word of God to every man's door" would fail to institute a plan to accomplish this goal. Divine directives are clear:
"It is not preaching that is the most important; it is house-to-house work."— Welfare Ministry, p. 60.
"This house-to-house labor, searching for souls, hunting for the lost sheep, is the most essential work that can be done."— Evangelism, p. 110.
Surely this is the church's blind spot. Are we willfully blind? Why is it that every other activity seems to take priority over that which inspiration says is the most important?The readers of this journal, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can change this order.
If the Son of God worked from house to house, what excuse can we possibly plead for not following His example? "The Saviour went from house to house, healing the sick, comforting the mourners, soothing the afflicted, speaking peace to the disconsolate. . . . And as men and women listened to the truths that fell from His lips, so different from the tradition and dogmas taught by the rabbis, hope sprang up in their hearts. In His teaching there was an earnestness that sent His words home with convicting power."— The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 364, 365.
But you say, "There are not enough workers. We could never reach every man's door." Again we learn from the example of Jesus. He didn't go alone. He took disciples with Him so that as He worked, He was training other workers. He devoted three and one-half years to training twelve men. "It did not matter how small the group was to start with so long as they reproduced and taught their disciples to reproduce."—Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Revell, 1963), p. 106.
Billy Graham was asked, "If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?" He replied: "I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve men around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of a couple of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laymen who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them."—"Billy Graham Speaks: The Evangelical World Prospect," Christianity Today, Oct. 13, 1958, p. 5.
To reach the objective of world evangelization, we must make specific territorial assignments at the church level and provide on-the-job training. With the clear directives that we have, it seems incredible that we have done so little towards making every church a training center. "Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught how to give Bible readings, how to conduct and teach Sabbath-school classes, how best to help the poor and to care for the sick, how to work for the unconverted. . . . There should not only be teaching, but actual work under experienced instructors."— The Ministry of Healing, p. 149.
As we look to Divine counsel instead of other denominations for direction, we will become innovators instead of imitators and leaders instead of followers.
We are challenged to devise ways and means. "Those who have the spiritual oversight of the church should devise ways and means by which an opportunity may be given to every member of the church to act some part in God's work. Too often in the past this has not been done."— Christian Service, p. 61.
We have the tools: personal witnessing materials; the Gift Bible Plan; Bible correspondence courses; radio and television programs; religious, health, and temperance journals; medical missionary, welfare, and Community Services programs, et cetera. We could cover our territory once a quarter with a different approach. We know what needs to be done. We have said it all before. What we need now is to do it!
It isn't enough simply to at tempt a little more than we did last year. Our people need more than exhortation and inspiration. They need specific direction. They need specific assignments and training to equip them to realize their objectives. "The elders and those who have leading places in the church should give more thought to their plans for conducting the work.
They should arrange matters so that every member of the church shall have a part to act, that none may lead an aimless life." — Ibid., p. 62.
Many churches go on from one year to the next with nothing more than vague exhortations to do better in the future. Let us be specific. What did you accomplish last year? Do you know the growth rate of each Sabbath school class and of the congregation as a whole? Have you counseled together with church officers to determine what would be reason able objectives for growth during the current year? Do you have a definite plan to reach these objectives with God's help? Have you assigned specific responsibilities and territories? This is what management by objectives is all about.