Something that scares me is that it’s possible to do church without actually doing what a church is called to do.
It’s possible to gather people together, sing songs, listen to words spoken from a stage, pass offering plates, and not even come close to the mission that Jesus gave the Church.
Does that scare you?
I don’t ever want to be a church that isn’t accomplishing the Great Commission of reaching lost people and discipling them into Jesus followers.
And yet, we know from the book of Revelation, and just by looking around at churches in the western world, that it is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that our churches will someday become irrelevant to the Great Commission.
So, here are the questions I want to grapple with.
- How do you stay on mission?
- How do you keep yourself and your church from drifting?
- And, if you sense you are drifting, how do you get back on mission?
I have two thoughts.
Love the Mission Not The Model
Here’s the deal.
There was a time when pipe organs were cutting edge in church, and if you can believe it, controversial.
There was a time when church in a rail car was innovative and one of the only ways to bring church to frontier towns.
There was a time when Sunday school was the absolute rage in the American church and thousands of people were coming to Jesus through that ministry model.
Now, many churches are moving away from Sunday school and towards some form of small group ministry.
And, if your sanctuary renovation includes a ginormous pipe organ…let’s say I’d be skeptical.
And, if you plan to go multi-site with rail cars…actually that might be kind of cool.
My point is, ministry models often become obsolete, changing as people and culture change.
Unfortunately, many churches become obsolete when they marry their models.
Churches that endure and remain effective are married to the mission, not the ministry model.
Perhaps, the best strategy for long-term effectiveness is to help your staff and congregation continually fall in love with the mission of reaching lost people and discipling them, while continuously evaluating the effectiveness of your current models and methods.
How do you know if a model isn’t effective anymore?
And, how do you find the courage to stop doing something that no longer works?
Let’s move on to the second big idea in this post.
Measure What Matters
Here are a few questions to ask yourself: What matters to you as a church? What are you attempting to accomplish? Are you succeeding?
The answer to all these questions comes through an additional question: What are you measuring?
What you measure tells you what you care about.
What numbers do you regularly track? That’s what matters to you.
It doesn’t matter what you say matters to you; what matters is what you measure and what you do with that information.
Let me give you an example.
For years, I led the student ministry in our church.
We measured attendance and that’s about it.
By simply measuring attendance, you become mainly concerned with the number of people who show up.
Over time we realized that what impacted students the most was a relationship with an adult spiritual mentor—a small group leader who functioned as a spiritual shepherd.
Because of this, we shifted what we measured.
Our most important measurables became leader attendance and the ratio of students to leaders.
When our mission became clear, we figured out a way to measure the effectiveness of the mission.
The mission of the Church is to reach and disciple people.
How do you measure that?
Well, every church has to dig into that question their own way.
For us, we ask this question,
“What does a disciple look like?”
What do they do?
Get clear on this and then figure out a way to measure those activities.
This gives a much clearer picture of effectiveness rather than just weekend attendance or the amount of weekly giving.
We believe that disciples are engaged in meaningful relationships with other believers.
We believe that disciples serve and give.
And, we believe that disciples regularly engage in spiritual disciplines.
With this picture of discipleship in mind, here are a few crucial measures for us:
- The percentage of weekend attendees who are in a small group
- The percentage of weekend attendees who are actively serving
- The percentage of weekend attendees who are giving
- The number of weekend attendees who use our weekly devotional
Of course, we also measure baptisms and salvation decisions because the mission is to reach as well as disciple.
Here’s my challenge: The way to stay on mission is to continually focus on the mission by measuring mission outcomes.
If you don’t already have a set of measurable to guide you, I would highly encourage you and your leadership team to take some time to identify what they should be.
This strategy could be the thing that keeps your church focused on what matters and married to the mission instead of married to the methods.
Thanks for reading.
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