Everyone has things they count and keep track of. Why? We usually count so we can know how we are progressing in our plans and what we need to adjust to meet our goals. In the church, is what we are counting truly helping the church reach her ministry goals? Or is it hindering the church?
The purpose of most evangelical churches is to glorify God through a growing body of Christ-followers who are reaching their world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As part of its purpose statement, a church often describes how they plan to make disciples, do mission, multiply, and advance the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Does what we count help us meet these goals?
Many numbers in sports are counted, but only one thing ultimately matters: the final score. In football the stats of rushing yards, passing yards, tackles, sacks and interceptions help the team to be aware of how the players are performing. The offensive and defensive numbers can look great but the team can still be losing. Only the number of touchdowns, field goals, and safeties counts to make the team a winner or loser. Both sets of numbers are important. Both are needed to tell the whole story.
How does what we are counting in the church give us the whole story of making disciples, reaching our world for Jesus, and multiplying? Traditionally we have counted Sunday morning attendance, the weekly offering, the annual budget, the size of our buildings, and the number of active programs. These numbers do show us the amount of activity in our church. But does it help us determine how well we are making disciples, reaching our world for Jesus, and multiplying? This is the rest of the story.
Attendance, offerings, budget, buildings, and programs are very easy to define and count, but disciple-making, reaching the lost, and multiplication are not. Since these are harder to keep track of, we often just assume we are doing alright, but in reality we do not even know exactly how we are doing. The 2007 “Reveal Study” from Willow Creek showed how they discovered through in-depth evaluation that they were not making disciples as they thought they were.
Each church needs to develop criteria and metrics by which disciple-making, reaching the lost, and multiplication will be counted. For example, new baptisms, new discipleship groups, new apprentices, and leaders-in-training could be counted. If our focus is on these numbers, and we make good decisions about how we will use this information, then we will better discern if we are accomplishing God’s commands.
This is not an easy task. Would you be willing to use this blog as a forum to share your metrics for disciple-making, reaching the lost, and multiplication? Also share how you use these numbers to get the whole story of the church’s ministry and how it helps keep you on track.