In economics, elasticity measures responsiveness. For example, the price elasticity of demand measures the responsiveness of quantity demanded to change in price. If demand is elastic (responsive to price changes), the price can be lowered, and total revenue will increase. If demand is inelastic (less responsive to price changes), the price can be increased while causing total revenue to increase. Demand for a product becomes less elastic if consumers believe there are fewer available substitutes.
Businesses spend much of their time and treasure trying to reduce the number of substitutes for their products in consumers' minds. They will attempt to offer improved products, better service, greater variety, more guarantees, superior financing and/or increased convenience. If they are successful, they can grow demand and decrease elasticity while increasing price and profits. Businesses with less integrity may attempt to increase demand and lower elasticity through deceiving consumers by overpromising, underdelivering or selling defective or inferior products. Unethical business decisions may generate short-term revenue but will have disastrous long-run impact.
The kingdom of God has no substitutes. Pastors should not attempt to compete with the world. Too many pastors have adopted secular strategies and tactics in misguided attempts to increase church attendance and/or reduce attrition. If we try to make our church services more entertaining than secular venues, we will lose. If we try to adopt society's cultural values, we are opening doors for our sheep that should remain closed. If we selectively omit part of the kingdom message so as not to offend, the protection for our sheep will be weakened. If we lift personalities above the kingdom message of Jesus, we will not be successful in the long run.
The kingdom message is the King's message. The commission Christ gave 2,000 years ago is still valid. We would be ill-advised to attempt to adapt it to today's societal and cultural norms and mores. We are told to make disciples, not just believers, in all nations. We are told to baptize. We are told to teach others to obey. He is with us to the end of the age. Are we listening?
"Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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'" (Matt. 28:18-20).
Similarly, the fivefold ministry is given for the purpose of equipping the saints for service. We are expected to build up the body of Christ until we attain unity, the knowledge of Jesus and maturity in the faith, and have reached a stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ. If we are faithful, the Scriptures tell us we will no longer be tossed by every wind of doctrine, but the body will be built up in love (see Eph. 4:14-16).
"He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).
The kingdom of God has no substitutes. By accepting Jesus, we are adopted into the kingdom of the King of kings as citizens, sons and daughters, and servant leaders.
The kingdom message has billions of personal testimonies spanning thousands of years. This message promises a life of fulfillment, significance, abundance and power. As members of God's kingdom, we have access to the resources of heaven and the Spirit of the living God within. We have the Bible, which is filled with absolute truth. The promises in God's Word are fully reliable. As the Lord's ambassadors on earth, we are asked and equipped to bring the Father's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Let us return to teaching and preaching the message of the kingdom. Let us demonstrate its truthfulness with kingdom power. Our message and the signs following are our witness. We should be known for the love that comes from our churches. We do not need cheap imitations as substitutes. We need more of His presence. We need to demonstrate more of His love and compassion. We need the Word to be confirmed with signs and wonders. We need to teach the same message of the kingdom that Jesus taught.
Businesses worry about elasticity. As ministers in the kingdom, we need to concern ourselves with His ways and His presence and leave the responsiveness to God.
James R. Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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