The Conference Board released the July Index of Leading Economic Indicators. The report showed a month to month change of 0.4 percent, compared to June's estimate of 0.3 percent, and a Bloomberg Econoday pre-report estimate of 0.2 percent.
Over the last six months, the index has increased 1.1 percent, compared to 0.2 percent the previous six months. Average weekly hours in manufacturing, stock prices, interest rates and unemployment claims (which have since weakened some) were positives for the report. Consumer expectations were a negative.
The Index is designed is give insight into general economic conditions six months in the future. The report is comprised of 10 components. In addition to the five factors listed above, it includes manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods, manufacturers' new orders for non-defense capital goods, vendor performance, building permits and the money supply. Policy makers use the Index to take corrective actions when justified.
The last three monthly reports have shown increases in the Index. While it doesn't include all of the variables which could cause a recession (bank failures, war, stress in the EU, etc.), the report indicates the odds of a recession have fallen for the last three months. The last seven recessions have all been preceded by a drop in the Index of Leading Economic Indicators. Last week's report provides economic hope for the balance of the year.
Our ministries should have and use leading indicators. Best practice stewardship necessitates a good understanding of our past and present situation, and have well-reasoned and inspired projections for the future. We need metrics on all that is important. Leading indicators are an important tool that allows us to be proactive in making adjustments.
Even though our ministries are different, Scripture provides general guidance on essentials. The following principles should be helpful in developing a set of ministry leading indicators:
1. Are we on purpose? Are we accomplishing the things the Lord has called us to do? We are specifically called to make disciples, baptize, teach (and model) obedience, have a relationship with the Lord, operate in power and be His witnesses. Do our programs, efforts, focus and resources align with our heavenly calling?
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20, MEV).
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, MEV).
2. Are we fruitful? Are we consistently bearing fruit? How many people are we leading to the Lord? Are we discipling them? Are we encouraging a personal and growing relationship with Him? Do we see healings, deliverances, signs and wonders? Are we witnessing for Him? Are we bearing fruit that will mature and last? What are the trends? Answer to our prayers is partly dependent on our fruitfulness.
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that the Father may give you whatever you ask Him in My name" (John 15:16, MEV).
3. Does our ministry preach, teach and align with the Word? As secular society moves farther and farther from the Word, do we stand firm? Are we equipping our charges with a sound knowledge of the Word? Are we striving with all of our being to live and teach, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a life of holiness, love, giving and service according to the standards of the Word, while remembering mercy and grace when one falls short?
"Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2, MEV).
Our ministry's leading indicators also need to include the areas of finance, personnel, facilities and programs. But remembering the spiritual essentials will bring blessings, favor and a life of fruitfulness.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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