Hope: the Ultimate Inventory
The robotic voice enunciates the word clearly through Khaira’s headphones. She stares at it on her computer screen. Well, the class’s computer screen. She doesn’t own a laptop. Her son had one in Iraq, and they left it behind when they fled their country due to terrorism. She can still see the Arabic letter ‘n’ graffitied on her home. It stood for Nazarene. It’s what they called Christians like them.
“Girl,” Khaira says into her headphone. Her tongue betrays her, refusing to pronounce ‘rl’ like an American. The Rosetta Stone application buzzes and flashes bright red. Khaira sighs. “Girl,” she repeats, but it still sounds like ‘gir.’ The letters ‘rl’ are like water and oil in her mouth. Again, it buzzes and flashes red. She squeezes her eyes shut.
“Cara. Girl,” her helper, Carl, says. He doesn’t say her name correctly. The ‘kh’ should sound like he’s gently clearing his throat.
“Gi-rel,” Khaira tries again. She needs to learn ‘world’ and ‘Carl’ and all the other ‘rl’ words, even if her helper can’t get her name right. She blinks any threatening tears away. The application buzzes and turns red.
What You’re Actually Selling
Everyone’s selling something. A new product, book, video series, etc. It’s bigger and better than everyone else’s. Now, I’m not saying that’s not important. The world is full of competition and that’s true of ministries as well. But I wholeheartedly believe that it doesn’t matter who you are, how big your church is, what kind of ministry you are, or how specialized the niche in which your organization operates is. If we had to define a “product” that every ministry is selling, it all boils down to one thing: what we’re selling is hope. I don’t care how many books you’ve written, followers you have, mission trips you’ve been on, or degrees you hold. Everything ultimately comes down to hope. That’s what the class above is providing. Not free English lessons, but hope.
People need hope. They can’t survive without it. It’s as necessary as water, food, and shelter. In everything we do, we’re attempting to give hope to people who need it, whether we realize it or not. Whether we are doing it intentionally or not.
But I think it’s easy to forget what we’re really offering to someone we’re trying to give hope to. Our website, following, and story becomes the focus. We’ve got a brand, an image, and a reputation to protect. We spend time and energy trying to make all of this unique and compelling. But all of these are just tools. They’re elements that serve something bigger. Please don’t get me wrong. These things are important. The challenge, however, is when the elements, or brand, or uniqueness of our story becomes more important to us than the needs we’re trying to serve.
What Jesus Offered
No one modeled hope better than Jesus. Whether you were lost, sick, broken, or confused, Jesus offered hope. That hope is what leads people to salvation and ultimately a changed life. Hope is the common thread that binds all of us. It unifies our work and crosses the boundaries of competition, segmentation, markets, and denominations. The mission and the values of your organization need to incorporate this concept to keep yourself from getting distracted.
Stop trying to just sell knowledge, information, and entertainment within your ministry. Those are all nice things, but people need hope more than anything else. Don’t lose sight of that.
“Okay, Cara. Let’s try again.”
“Khaira.” She spits out the correction before she can help it, her eyes never leaving the computer. She turns to Carl who looks taken back, and she feels guilty. “Not Cara,” she gently explains. “Khaira.” She points to her mouth and clears her throat.
“Khaira,” he repeats back, looking unsure of himself.
She smiles and nods. “Yes.”
He grins. “See!” Carl exclaims. “If I can say Khaira, you can say girl!”
That makes her laugh. A first for her in English class.