“If it’s okay for a church to be small, how do you suggest we measure a church’s success?”
Since I’ve begin ministering to small churches, I’ve been asked that question more than any other. Maybe more than all other questions combined
At first I didn’t know how to answer it. Now I believe that the question itself is a problem.
Measuring the Immeasurable
Imagine this scenario. Jesus is meeting with the disciples. He’s been training them for three years. He’s died, risen again and walked with them in resurrection power for almost 40 days. As the day of his ascension draws near, he gathers them together to reiterate The Great Commission.
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation,” Jesus tells them. Then Peter (it’s always Peter, right?) asks, “Jesus, what metrics should we use to measure the success of this mission?”
If that question is as important as we’re constantly being told it is, how did the disciples not think to ask it of Jesus? What a missed opportunity!
Maybe the disciples didn’t think to ask it because, before the Day of Pentecost they missed a lot of important things. If so, why didn’t Jesus correct their oversight and tell them what metrics we’re supposed to use? He corrected them when they missed other important points, but not this one.
Could it be because the kind of success Jesus had in mind is immeasurable?
How Did the Church Grow Before Metrics?
Metrics aren’t wrong. Measuring our progress can be helpful. But can we all admit that the idea of using statistics to measure a church’s success came from us, not from Jesus? And that measuring our progress numerically has not been considered a vital ingredient in reaching the world for Jesus until really, really recently in church history?
How did the church grow for 1900 years without anyone asking that question or taking rigorous measurements?
As important as measuring our success is supposed to be, the church should thrive in the places and times when we have accurate measurements, and it should be dying in places and times when we don’t. But any accurate study of church history and current revivals shows that the opposite tends to be true.
Years ago I asked the leaders of our church how we should measure success. I wrote about that exchange in The Grasshopper Myth. Here’s how it went: