Economists are often concerned about maximizing profits or net benefits. To maximize profits, a firm should produce until marginal revenue (the change in revenue associated with an additional unit of production) equals marginal costs (the change in costs associated with an additional unit of production). Producing even one unit less (or more) will result in less than maximum profits.
Studies have shown that consumers maximize net utility (satisfaction) inherently when making purchasing decisions. Specifically, they maximize net utility by equating marginal utility (the change is satisfaction associated with an additional unit of a good or service) with its price. It makes no difference whether the consumer has ever heard of the terms utility, marginal or any other economic term. It still describes their behavior. Consumers will attempt to maximize net utility.
Business decision-makers attempt to optimize. Production managers are concerned about maximizing output and minimizing costs. Marketers maximize sales. Financial managers optimize cash flow and other financial criteria. Trade specialists optimize trade.
Personnel managers try to optimize their labor force by attempting to obtain a motivated, skilled, loyal and unified labor force at the lowest cost. Optimal results should be the objective of every decision-maker.
In our churches and ministries, the optimum result is accomplishing everything the Lord has called us to do. As in secular-decision making, we can miss the mark. The risks of non-optimal decision-making are even greater for nonprofit organizations because of a reliance on volunteers. We can do too much for programs which were never the Lord's will to begin with or are past their time. In contrast, we can do too little for programs that have the potential of transforming lives and our organizations.
In the kingdom, optimum decision-making is simply agreeing with the Lord's choice and the Lord's timing. However, we do have stewardship responsibilities, and evaluation of our organization is beneficial. The following principles should help:
1. Be willing to give up current programs to follow the direction of the Spirit. The evangelist Philip was in revival in the city of Samaria. His message was attested to by so many miracles, healings and deliverances that the city listened in unity to what he said. Peter and John came down teaching about the Holy Spirit, and they were filled. It must have been an evangelist's dream.
Then an angel of the Lord told Philip to get up and take the desert south road toward Jerusalem. Philip was obedient and saw one convert (which introduced the entire nation of Ethiopia to Christ). After the convert's baptism, the Spirit transported Philip to his next assignment (Acts 8). Could it be that Philip's obedience had made him so valuable to the Lord that the Spirit didn't want him to waste time with normal transportation?
2. Never give up any dream (program, emphasis or promise) you believe is from the Lord. Joseph could have easily given up when he was sold into slavery, when he was falsely accused of infidelity or when he was in prison. It wasn't fair, but he did not give up on his dream. After many trials, he was put in charge of all of Egypt under Pharaoh. His position allowed him to save his family (Israel) and bless many people.
3. Persevere under difficulty. Paul had every possible excuse to give up if he were willing. He was beaten with rods, was stoned, was in three shipwrecks, was often in peril and received 39 lashes five times. He had enemies among the religious, governments and even in the church. At times, he was in hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11). But Paul completed his race. He wrote most of the New Testament. He aggressively took the gospel to the gentiles. He won His crown. Let us persevere until we have completed all the Lord has called us to do.
"Do you not know that all those who run in a race run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. Everyone who strives for the prize exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one" (1 Cor. 9:24-25).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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