Numbers can be deceptive. Everyone knows that.
Bigger doesn’t equal better. Often, it is much worse.
Strength is no indicator of spiritual significance. In fact, weakness is the biblical meta-narrative.
More is not always the means to mission. Often, it becomes the very appeal to maintaining mediocrity.
So, our numbers – the metrics that we frequently count – can be missionally deceptive.
But it’s easy to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when discussing the relationship between numbers and a kingdom-advancing mission. Numbers, while fundamentally deficient as an authoritative means of defining kingdom success, can actually serve as an indication of missional health.
The trick is counting what matters.
Counting missionary primacies is inherently burdened with difficulty and nuance. The simple objectivity of enumerating bodies amassed for the Sunday spectacular, or greenbacks redirected to a more sacred calling, is clear and entirely uncomplicated. People are either there or not. Money is either given or it’s not.
There’s little need for descriptors, asterisks, or caveats. But this isn’t the case with kingdom metrics associated with holistic, missionary living. The scorecard is much different.
Consider these five examples of kingdom behaviors that should be quantified:
Count the Number of Gospel Relationships
Those who embrace a missionary mindset prioritize the development of relationships that point lost sheep to their Shepherd. Missionary believers prioritize relationships with those far from God and his people.
Whether a neighbor, coworker, barista, band mom, or spotter at the gym, disciple-making missionary-members strive to cultivate authentic relationships that are gospel-centric. Churches comprised of men and women who are accountable to leverage strategic relationships for the sake of the gospel have a metric worthy of counting and celebrating.
Measure your level of gospel engagement.
Count the Number of Domains with Kingdom Influencers
A second metric worthy of consideration is the number of domains in society infiltrated with gospel presence. By this I do not merely mean a missionary partnership through the local church—the kind you might find when the church takes some members to do landscaping at an elementary school or delivers lunch to the local fire department.
These are good practices, but merely serve as training wheels for the missionally wary. More critical are the actual teachers, fire fighters, lawyers, CEOs, and plumbers trained and deployed as the King’s ambassadors.
These missionary-workers, fueled with gospel intentionality, are positioned insiders pre-packaged with systemic credibility. The more domains filled by Spirit-empowered and commissioned believers, the more far reaching will be the impact of the church’s kingdom mission.
Measure your spectrum of trained deployment.
Count the Number of Kingdom Imprints
Third, to measure gospel proliferation in post-modern environments, consider keeping an ongoing tally of “kingdom imprints” – instances where good works performed have been substantiated by good news shared. By developing a reporting system that links kingdom energies with gospel proclamation, you create settings for your people to convincingly share eternal answers with those asking eternal questions (1 Peter 3:15).
By integrating this culture throughout the life of the church through consistent public celebrations, you will: (a) give a new imagination for a verbal witness to the evangelistically fearful, and (b) give kingdom credibility and inspire spiritual curiosity to a skeptical world that often sees evangelicals as more talk than action.
Measure the depth of your evangelism.
Count the Number of New Believers
Fourth, if we are at all concerned with our usefulness toward our assigned Commission, we might want to take an introspective look at our performance. Do we regularly see eternal transfers from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of God?
Before excusing our lack of evangelistic results by the spiritual disinterest of our community, perhaps an internal ‘salt and light’ audit is warranted. If all that our salt and light can muster is evangelical transfers and near paedobaptisms, we might want to become more spiritually reflective (Matt 6:22-23).
Measure the outcomes of your witness.
Count the Number of Disciple-Makers Raised and Sent
Finally, if we have no desire for our church to become the dead-end link on the Great Commission chain, we must grapple with our sending capacity. The missional behavior of a church can be quantified in the number of people who are discipled and sent into new contexts for missionary living and church planting.
Multiplying churches have an intentional strategy to discover, develop and deploy church planting teams from within their membership. They have rejected the church growth fallacy of keeping and adding in order to grasp with both arms their biblical commission of giving and multiplying (Mark 8:35).
They have created a discipleship process for everyday believers to participate co-vocationally in the missionary expansion of the church. These leaders measure success in a selfless way with an eye toward their appearance before the judgment seat of Christ. And because of that promised day, stewardship campaigns shift from schemes of extracting and accumulating, to the open-handedness of dispersing and deploying.
Measure how many you have developed and given away.
If the church in North American is to alter her downward trajectory, she must adopt the metrics of missionary behavior. There’s no question that such measures will necessitate heroic efforts of deconstruction in order to start counting what really counts. But in that dismantling we will make room for a kingdom foundation with eternal consequences.
We will make room for our King.
Jeff Christopherson is an author and Chief Missiologist and Vice President of the Send Network. He also serves as Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute, a partnership of the Billy Graham Centerat Wheaton College and the North American Mission Board.