Church Growth
The Folly of Trying to Measure Success In Christ’s 'First Shall Be Last' Kingdom
We need to measure what we can manage, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we have more control than we do.

We don’t measure the things that matter.

We measure the things we manage.

One of the unquestioned premises of the church growth movement is that when something matters to us, we measure it. So we count things like church attendance in an attempt to measure a church’s health, strength and impact.

The idea of counting the things that matter makes sense – if you’re an accountant or a manager.

But it wouldn’t be accepted by one artist or prophet. Here’s why.

How do we measure art?

  • By audience? If so, Gangnam Style, with 2.67 billion YouTube views is the greatest video of all time.
  • Sales? That makes Thomas Kinkaid a greater painter than Gaugin, Matisse and Renoir combined.
  • Price? Then a ticket for a Katy Perry concert is more valuable than having been on the street in London when the Beatles threw their impromptu final (and free) concert on the rooftop of Apple studios.
  • Size? So tiny Mona Lisa is of less artistic merit than the banners made by a high school pep team?

Measurement and the False Perception of Control

We need to measure what we can manage – money, facilities, schedules and the like. That’s good stewardship. But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we have more control than we do.

The most important things in life – art, beauty, love and salvation – are immeasurable.

The most important things in life – art, beauty, love and salvation – are immeasurable.

Plus, did Jesus use any term that even comes close to the word “metrics”?

Yes, I know Jesus told parables about turning small numbers into larger numbers. I’m also aware that he debriefed the disciples after sending them out two-by-two. And of course Jesus ministered to some large crowds. And someone counted those crowds. That all involves metrics.

But I also know that it wasn’t Jesus who measured the crowds because whoever did only counted the men. So if we measure what matters… [Ouch!]

Why We Can’t Measure What Really Matters

Jesus told us that our ideas about what’s important to measure are often wrong – like counting only the men. According to him, the humble will be exalted, the weak will be strong, the widow’s mite is the biggest offering of all, and women and children count, even to people who don’t count them.

So let’s count what can be counted, manage what we can manage and measure what needs to be measured. That gives us a baseline of competence upon which great things can be built.

But let’s not be deluded into believing that our measuring gives us the ability to move anything that matters.

If we measure what we manage, may God give us the joy of an unmanageable, uncontrollable outbreak of joy, ministry, salvation and wonder.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

February 21, 2017 at 3:44 AM

Join in the conversation about this post on Facebook.

Recent Posts
Include results from Christianity Today

Read More from Karl

Follow Christianity Today

Free Newsletters

More Newsletters ...