mission.vs.metrics

I am copy/pasting a reply I originally wrote on another blog in response to a fellow reader’s reflection on church dysfunction.

Javipa – I hear your frustration, and I share it. However, I am not
willing to give up mission over metrics when pursuing the purpose,
values, and processes of the church I am pastoring. I am not saying
that metric are not important, but they need to be appropriately
applied, as tools to measure success at the goal – they should not be
goals unto themselves.

I have enjoyed a couple of books from people who are moving beyond
the church-growth paradigm to the kingdom-growth paradigm. These guys,
many of whom were growth-at-all-costs evangelists have taken a step
back to critically examine the fruit of their labors. I am talking
about guys like Reggie McNeal (Present Future) and Thom Rainer (Simple
Church, Essential Church). They are desperately trying to alter course,
a course they helped to set. Their clarion calls remind me of George
Whitefield’s self-reflecting lament of the “rope of sand” he created.

These guys present a solid case that “numbers” are not as
“principal” a metric as once understood. The “principal” metric is much
more abstract – changed lives – which resulted from intentional
laser-like focus on mission. According to them, numerical growth
typically follows such a path. But, they caution that the focus ought
to be on mission, not numbers – otherwise you may build a giant house –
but of cards.

As a church planter I tend to scrutinize ministry models. There are
a ton of “growing” churches in my area – but what kind of growth is it?
Typically, it is transfer (church hoppers) or biological (babies).
Rarely are these churches growing from actually changing people’s lives
– you know, new converts and renewed converts.

I pray that your pastor will find his way to forward-looking goals.
But I also pray that they are mission-centric because “growth” is not
enough – it needs to be the right kind of growth. I would rather have a
church of 10 people that reach out than 10,000 who occupy space.

Serious engagement in the mission that Christ sets for us will result in the fruit and resources appropriate to that mission, but may not come in the form or timing that you might expect – my two cents.

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