Count What Counts pt 2

Yesterday I left you with this question: 

If you and I go fishing together and you are catching fish but every once in a while I snag a fish from your holding tank and put them into mine am I an effective fisherman?

The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.  

Counting the fish in my tank after someone else did the work to catch them may make me seem successful at catching fish but it does not mean that I am a good fisherman.

Unfortunately, this is the present state of the American Church.  Pastors are celebrating ‘growth’ of their congregations that are actually filled with Christians who came to Christ in other years and other ministries.  A growing attendance is great but it doesn’t tell the tale of effectiveness.  Church hoppers and shoppers are giving a false sense of growth, effectiveness and overall leadership strength.  As one church looses membership, another gains.  One Pastor looks like a heel and the other the hero.  The question remains… are we being effective? 

If the goal is simply collecting Christians we need not look deeper than Sunday morning attendance.  If the goal however is building and sustaining healthy churches there is a far greater indicator available.

So how should we measure our church health?  Baptisms.  

Baptism in to the Evangelical Christian is a public profession of an inward change.  Peter preached “Repent and be Baptized” (Acts 2:38).  Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

What is the point of the local church?  To make disciples.  

What is the biblical method to discern who is coming to faith?  Baptism.

What do we disciples do?  Obey Jesus… who told us to… make disciples.  So at the end of the day disciple-making is a huge indicator as to the health of our churches.

Let me illustrate this in Christian terms:  Chic-Fil-A

What is the point of Chic-Fil-A?  To sell chicken.

What would you think of a Chic-Fil-A owner/operator who kept celebrating how many ice-cream cones he/she sold while ignoring the fact that he/she wasn’t selling much chicken?  You’d shake this person silly wouldn’t you?  You’d say:

“Hey, you’re supposed to be selling great tasting chicken.  Your mission statement is all about chicken.  You promote chicken.  For goodness sake you have a huge cow painting billboards on the highway telling people to “eat more chikin”.  Who cares if you sold more waffle fries?… you’re not selling chicken!”

The Church is supposed to be making disciples.  

If we’re not making disciples we’re not making an eternal difference.

In the Christian church we tend to ‘celebrate’ wins that aren’t really wins.  Like the Chic-Fil-A operator who celebrates waffle fries, we invent new ways to be happy even though we are not actually fulfilling the mission of Jesus.  We have invented entire divisions of denominational organizations designed to cater to “Christians” who are not making disciples.  Visit your local Christian bookstore.  Ask yourself how much of what is on the shelves is designed for the brand new believer in Christ.  Next to nothing.  I have a hard time with that.

What are our churches producing if the people we label ‘disciples’ are not themselves actually making new disciples?

How can a church with a dry-rotted baptistry claim to be healthy?

I know, some people would say “We are healthy because our people are in small groups and/or ministry teams.” or “Have you seen the stats of our 101, 201,301, 401 classes?”   Boo.

Everything your church does should ultimately lead to making disciples.

If your small groups are teaching people to follow the Jesus who commanded his disciples to go and make disciples… the result of your small groups will be…?  You got it… new disciples.

How do you quantify effectiveness in making new disciples vs. swapping sheep?  Baptisms.

At the end of the day we need to be focused on counting what counts. If the goal of the church is to advance the Kingdom of Jesus then we need to make new disciples.

The fully developed disciple reproduces himself/herself in the life of a third-spiritual generation.  Baptisms.  

The successful small group leads people toward becoming a fully developed reproducing disciple.  Baptisms.

The successful ministry team is one that is helpful in advancing the churches mission to make disciples. Baptisms.

The useful counseling session, bible study, sermon series… all add up to fully-devoted disciples who reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation which will ultimately reveal itself in …?  You got it… Baptisms.  

Count what counts.  If our church gets bogged down or clogged up it will show in the fact that we’re not making new disciples.  I don’t know about you but I believe the local church has a far greater mission than that of any social club or civic group.  Our great commission is to point people to Jesus.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Jesus – Matthew 28:19-20

 

Count What Counts pt 1

Today I read a post by Shawn Lovejoy which is actually an excerpt from his book ‘The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea To Pastors”.  I purchased his book on Kindle this morning and got about 20% through before my first meeting of the day.  Shawn’s post ‘Who Are We Reaching’ hits on a theme from a conversation I brought up to a ministry friend just yesterday.

My friend is in a denominational role which requires him to interface with many churches.  During the course of our conversation we got into a discussion about how resources are allocated, the role of overhead and determining effectiveness of ministries:  established as well as church plants.

Like Shawn, I believe we measure the wrong things.  

Attendance:

Attendance is an indicator but not a valid measurement of health.  Healthy things grow but I am most concerned with HOW things grow before I determine whether or not they are ‘healthy’.

So what do I look for?  Baptisms.

Status Quo:

It’s weird but I’ve noticed that people like to keep their jobs even if it means justifying a lack of productivity.  Most people do not want to admit when they are failing.

What DO you do if you’re failing?  

a.  Lie about your metrics.

b.  Change the metrics.

c.  Pretend metrics aren’t important.

d.  Measure metrics that do not matter.

e.  Admit it & fix it.

Instead of admitting that churches aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ve developed entire systems around justifying everything and everyone but I honestly believe most of us are drastically missing the mark.  Jesus told us to make disciples.  To me it becomes a simple question:  Are we?

In our denomination as in yours, we talk a lot about church ‘growth’.  When we plant churches we’re looking to see quick success so we can feel good about the investment made.  It is reasonable to quantify resources to effectiveness… I just believe we have our eyes focused on the wrong ball.

A Sunday morning attendance measurement doesn’t make sense to me.

If you and I go fishing together and you are catching fish but every once in a while I snag a fish from your holding tank and put them into mine am I an effective fisherman?  

To be continued…  check out Part 2

 

 

 

Remarkable Faith

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. -Romans 1:8

One of my hearts prayers is that I would be known for my faith.  Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Faith is my conviction that God exists and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  Hope is my daily optimism founded upon that faith.

I truly believe God has designed every human being with powerful potential.  God has given each of us something to do and we’re all united as one body.  Each with our own gifts, we have the ability to change the world when we unite together under a common vision and pursue the heart of Christ.

Q:How do we work out our faith to the point where it becomes ‘remarkable’? 

A: One day at a time.

I recently picked up a highly touted book by Zig Ziglar called ‘Pick Four’.  Having no working knowledge with the book or the systems, I relied only on people who said that it was worth every penny.  When I read the introduction I was hooked.  As I dove into the book however, I was thrown off by what I saw… an entire book of blank lines.  At the top of each page are the words “Goal 1, Goal 2, Goal 3, Goal 4″.  The purpose of the book is to write down your progress for each goal you have in your life.  Fill up each goal, each day with menial labor.  :)

The cumulative sum of following this process for three months is that your goals either become reality or come very close to reality.

What’s Seen:

To the average person a great accomplishment is simply that, great.  Great accomplishments almost seem magical.

What’s Unseen:

Difference makers know the truth.  The truth: That which seems remarkable is the sum of many small things that are not remarkable in and of themselves.  

In order to display remarkable faith you must do many things are are not remarkable.

It is not seen as remarkable to pray deeply when no one is around.  It is not seen as remarkable to cry out to God and pour out your dependency for Him.  It is not seen as remarkable to finish what you start and work until the task is finished.  These things are not seen as remarkable but they are the very things you must do to carry out a ‘Remarkable Faith’.