When something matters to us, we measure it.
That is one of the unquestioned premises of the church growth movement.
Unquestioned premises should always be questioned.
When we do so, we discover that church metrics don’t measure the things that matter. Because the things that matter – like love, faith, holiness and hope – are not quantifiable.
Since we're unable to measure things of real value, we measure things that are values-adjacent. Like church attendance, offerings, small group involvement, and the like.
Those metrics are important. They're a minimum requirement for good stewardship.
But we should never forget that, at best, they're stand-ins for the real thing.
Measuring What Matters
The idea that we can measure or manage anything that really matters would probably be accepted by every accountant and manager in the world. But it would be rejected by every artist and visionary.
Previously, I've written that the church needs artists more than managers. This is another reason why.
After all, how do we measure art and inspiration?
- By size? If so, the tiny Mona Lisa has less value than the banners made by a high school pep team.
- Sales? That makes Thomas Kinkade a greater painter than Gauguin, Matisse and Renoir combined.
- Price? Then a ticket for a One Direction 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.
- Audience? If so, Gangnam Style, with over two billion views, is the greatest music video of all time.
The most important things in life – values like art, grace, beauty and salvation – are immeasurable.
What Jesus Valued
Jesus told parables about turning small numbers into larger numbers. And he ministered to some large crowds. Crowds that someone counted.
But Jesus never called anyone's attention to those numbers. He never challenged his disciples with, "we fed 5,000 in our last meeting, let's shoot for 10,000 by this time next year!"
Instead, Jesus taught that our ideas about what’s important are often wrong. According to him, the humble will be exalted, the weak will be strong, and the widow’s mite is the biggest offering of all.
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 information that can be helpful.
But let’s not be deluded into believing that what we're measuring anything that really matters.
If we measure what we manage, may God give us the joy of an unmanageable, uncontrollable outbreak of love, generosity, salvation and wonder.
Copyright © 2015 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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