Monday, August 18, 2008

If Victory is in Jesus Where Do I Report That on the Annual Church Profile?

In watching the Olympics this past week or so knowing who wins is not complicated. The one with the most points wins. The one with the fastest time wins. The one who crosses the finish line first wins. There is an agreed upon measure of evaluation. There is nothing subjective or opinionated. Even with those sports where there are several judges deducting for flaws or miscues, these are averaged among them.

Simple. Clean. Efficient.

How can we evaluate our lives and our churches? We should not judge ourselves by the questions we are so often asked.

"How many in Sunday School?"
"How many baptisms?"
"How many in worship?"
"Have you built new buildings?"
"How many deacons have you ordained?"

The answers to these questions are for measuring sticks only. We ask people these questions because we do not care to take the time to ask better ones. We can, in our own form of religious piety, measure our superiority and walk away prideful or our inferiority and run away before the tables are turned. These answers might be indicators of trends but not of the totality of church health. Jesus said in John 15

1 "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

What if a church was going through a pruning so that God could burst forth with something new and fresh? The church and leadership would be viewed as failing because the "answers" are not what others think they should be.

What questions could we ask? What rods of evaluation could we use?

Some of the comments being left yearn for an answer in this arena of life. I have a group going through masterlife right now and we came up with some interesting thoughts on the subject. When it comes to victory how do we know? Certainly salvation is a victorious moment! Obviously baptism is victorious moment as a step of obedience!

Now what? Where is the next moment of victory? Heaven? WOW! That feels like a long time to wait! God wants us to have victory in our present. When churches and leadership grasp that relational faith lives among the individual then we can begin to uncover new forms of evaluation.

  • How many children do you have that enter youth knowing salvation and baptism?
  • How many children do you have that enter youth knowing what there life purpose is?
  • How many youth graduate knowing their purpose and seek colleges and majors that extend their potential in fulfilling that purpose?
  • How many adults are impacting their home and daily work out of the purpose God has for them?

These numbers are deeper in meaning. These are questions that reflect progress and victory. We must look to the individual. The parts are more important than the whole. Traditional evaluations look to the whole. Post-Modern, and Biblical, evaluations are designed to investigate the parts.