Nov 3, 2006

speaking of numbers

Someone asked me recently how I measure growth in ministry.

Honestly? I don't.
I measure my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, whether or not a local organization or institution gets credit for it. After all, if we make ourselves available to him then he will do his part... you know, the whole "God" part about him being God. Contrary to popular opinion, Christians are not called to build the church.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Jesus in Matthew
16:18, italics added)

Apparently, we're called to be a solid foundation for God to do the building.

"Foundation." "Grounded." "Dirt."

Not typically names we associate with doing something "great," and yet...

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14-14)

It seems as though we need to remember we are dust to begin with (and so it's rather biblical for someone to call you a "dirt bag").
Yet in the conversation I was having (and as much as I thought I'd made my point), the topic quickly turned to numbers... because apparently we can't seem to handle ministry we aren't able to quantify. I understand this temptation, because I enjoy it when people like me and say I'm doing a good job. Maybe you do, too.

And so the question was if I have a problem with numbers or if I use event attendance to track in any way my effectiveness in ministry.

Again, though, it's not my job to be effective. I'm simply called to serve the Lord wholeheartedly (which means we don't choose lazyness), being faithful to the opportunities and resources he lays in my path. There is always one more person to love, one more enemy to forgive, and one more asset to utilize for the greater good.

This should never be about raising up a local ideal, ego, or enterprise at the expense of the kingdom, by the way. I love the Church, which means I love the local church on both its good days and bad days. Not to sound like a broken record, a smudgy CD, or a corrupted mp3 file, but if Jesus handed off this kind of task to us and fully knew how messed up we'd make it at times then maybe I can have that kind of faith in it, too... one person at a time.

So my favorite number to track is the number "1."
Jesus spoke about it a lot in Luke 15, which wasn't a formula perhaps in as much as it was insight into his heart. If he cares about all people then he cares for both the masses as well as the individuals who make it all up. So instead of looking at large numbers at the goal, perhaps the idea is to ask about "1 more," and "1 more," and "1 more," and so on.

These conversations make me smile... but maybe they shouldn't.


Heather said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

[preface] I don't have anything creative to say...

[body] A proper LOVE and UNDERSTANDING of the Church drives us to participate as the Church.

Within Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the Church is that which has the Word of God preached, the community rightly ordered, the sacraments duley administered, the (co)mission being fulfilled and worship/prayer occuring.

It is a little different on how those individual things are viewed,and a more in-depth study is necessary to see where you would agree (because none of the doctrinal statements in these three segments of the Church are seen as heretical) and live that idea out.

[conclusion] But just for kicks, all three are quite serious about the Church being the communion of the saints and worshiping God through different ways (primarily the Eucharist, or preaching the Word etc) ... and all of them seeking to worship Him in the best grounded way...

which shows? The same heart beating for God. The desire to worship Him in the best way possible and get others to do the same.

[random thought] Hmmm... this could be a blog... a healthy heart... Cheerios and Ecclesiology... maybe I'll work on that.

KC said...

Amen to that!

bjk said...

There is always one more person to love, one more enemy to forgive, and one more asset to utilize for the greater good.

keeping it simple...I like that.

bigwhitehat said...

That was fantastic.

I pose this to you mi amigo. When they ask you how you measure your ministry, ask them how God measures your ministry. The ensuing conversation is actually worth having.

My church fired a fantastic youth minister. None of us know why. The folks that wanted him gone were playing the numbers game. And they weren't even honest about the numbers. Now their gone too. Imagine that.

I personally like it when a youth minister concentrates on individual needs and growth. It actually helps the parents by helping asess the childs maturity and areas of emphasis.

The statistics are meaningless to me. What I care about is my kid. I would evaluate your performance based on efforts and results with my kid. Anything else would make me more of a busibody than a dad.

derek bethay said...

TERRIFIC POST! My sentiments exactly 100%!