Is Your Ministry an Energy Consumer or an Energy Releaser?

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Questions for 21st Century Church and Ministry Leaders in North America
It's About the Kingdom, Stupid!

By Jeb Gaither

A Quick Study of Endothermic or Exothermic Organizations

These are two words I use to describe various aspects of organizations and their leaders including churches and ministries.

These words are normally used to denote the two basic types of chemical reactions—endothermic and exothermic—by which various ingredients are converted into new materials.

In an endothermic reaction, ingredients are mixed together in a tank. Energy, usually heat, is applied throughout the reaction process. At the end of the reaction, a new material has been formed. An example is making soup in your kitchen. In an exothermic reaction, things are a bit different. You would again mix the ingredients and apply a little energy to get the process started. Once the reaction is started, it releases energy, often in great quantities. An example is lighting off a stick of dynamite.

Consequently, exothermic reactions are very challenging. Considerable engineering goes into the design and manufacture of the reactor itself, so if and when something goes wrong, there is not a massive explosion with great damage and possible loss of life. You might ask why in the world anyone would want to deal with an exothermic reaction because of all the challenges. The reason is simple—many great and necessary products require exothermic reactions in their manufacture.

Endothermic and exothermic are mutually exclusive. You have to choose one or the other—80%-20% is impossible.

Good news. God in His creation started the ultimate exothermic process—one far beyond our ability to comprehend or understand. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate exothermic process in the lives of Christians.

Organizations, including churches and ministries, can also be endothermic or exothermic.

For example, in the 1980s my company was privileged to be an Apple Certified Software Developer during the early days of the Apple Macintosh. From our vantage point, Apple, led by its co-founder Steve Jobs, was an extraordinary 'exothermic' company. Apple radiated boundless energy and fantastic products. Sadly, along the way Steve Jobs was replaced by a more senior executive with a great track record in mass marketing. I don't know how the mass marketing turned out. However, in the process Apple was converted from an exothermic to an endothermic company and totally lost its way in the personal computer market. Steve Jobs went off and founded Pixar Animation Studios, another high energy exothermic company with amazing products. In 1997 Steve Jobs returned to what was left of the shriveled Apple, reigniting its exothermic nature. It is again a great company of boundless energy and fantastic products like iPods, iPhones, and outstanding computers. Shareholders love to own stock in exothermic companies.

Apple demonstrates two important facts about organizations:

  1. Leadership and the culture leaders determine whether an organization is endothermic or exothermic.
  2. Leadership can change an organization from endothermic to exothermic or vice-versa.

The same two leadership dynamics can be observed in churches and ministries.

Study Questions for You to Discuss:

  1. All church plants and ministries start with exothermic expectations. Most end up endothermic. What goes wrong along the way?
  2. Pastors are killing themselves and their families—physically, emotionally, and mentally—trying to pump all of their energy into an endothermic church. Why bother? Would the Kingdom be better off if the church were closed?
  3. How can Kingdom-minded individuals come alongside churches, pastors, and leaders to prevent the flip from exothermic to endothermic?
  4. How can Kingdom-minded individuals come alongside endothermic churches or ministries and revive them?
  5. Why is God's Church so endothermic in North America? Is it because of pride in our abilities, fear of losing control, or fear of what the Holy Spirit might do?
  6. Why do a larger percentage of ministries appear to be more exothermic than churches?
  7. Why are so many Christians endothermic?

The executive who replaced Steve Jobs at Apple wrote a book about how successful he was. Today, you can buy a copy on Amazon for 1 cent plus shipping costs. To his credit, in 2013 this individual appeared at a conference where he stated that, in his opinion, Steve Jobs was an outstanding CEO.