“The Gospel Blimp” by Joseph Bayly is a great short story (or perhaps novella). It is a parable in the sense that it attacks commonly held “truth”.
The story revolves around an evangelical church in Middle America that wants to “reach their community for Christ”. This was motivated by the neighbor of one church member who was uninterested in being involved in religion.
Eventually, they get a blimp (dirigible, or whatever term you prefer). They used loudspeakers, streamers, and dropped fliers to get their message across. After a time, along came a businessman’s group and advertising agency. They combined the potential advertising power of the blimp with pro-business and pro-American slogans. Eventually, some people started seeing some flaws with the strategy.
1. The message was passed at a distance. Rather than simply going to friends and neighbors and demonstrating human concern and divine love, messages (often annoying) were sent impersonally at arms length.
2. The message was mixed with business slogans and patriotic banter creating a syncretism sometimes called “Americanism”. By mixing God’s message with human messages, God’s word is adulterated.
3. The message was driven by finances. One cannot serve both God and Money. If we serve God, money can serve us. But if we serve Money, we don’t have God. When the message controlled by greed, the results are destructive.
This story is very relevant to me. We are involved in two ministries (Bukal Life Care and Counseling Center… http://www.bukallife.org) and a local faith-based cooperative. Both of these have a ministerial side, as well as a business side. History has shown the challenges of organizations that try to maintain the delicate balance of ministry and business. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But constant reflection is needed. Some areas of reflection are:
1. What is our motives for what we do?
2. What are our priorities? What is our most important work? What is secondary or tertiary?
3. Who or what do we truly serve?