After some 30 years of being involved in church leadership, here are yardsticks that have no biblical substance and are of little help in our Sunday audit:
- Numbers - counting our attendance can keep us honest, but its dark side is that we place way too much weight of Sunday's number and not enough focus on the multi-generational nature of our call - the sin of David counting his warriors can be our demise too.
- Miracles - a deep hunger for a naturally supernatural church is most wonderfully commendable. However, even the life of Jesus reflected how "all, many, some, one" were healed with him [from the gospel of Mark]. Church history equally reflects times of many miracles then times of quiet. This is a mystery that is not simple to explain. If we do not get this, we will end up driving ourselves and our people for more results - the quest for more faith actually ends up with more performance and less faith,
- Vibe - our post-modern influence is more marked than we know. A sense of vibe / feeling good can be such a fickle mistress. Not only is the feel good factor such a fragile measure, it has no biblical substance. The hard yards are also necessary, but don't always feel good, yet every football knows the 65 yard touch down is as valid and necessary as is the 2 yard run - but one has a particularly huge feel good factor,
- Dollars - my how the offering messes with our brain! Even if the numbers are down, if the dollars are up, boy does Monday feel good - but should it? This fragile yardstick helps the business minded, but is not necessarily a true God reflection of any given Sunday,
- Media - microphone feedback, power-point fails to work, the songs show up late with spelling mistakes with the wrong verse, throw in some poorly made announcements and we care not happy campers,
- Visitors - new faces especially cool, rich, famous new faces can make our Sunday afternoon nap feel very good but should it? Does it really show anything that is necessarily good or bad about the day?
- Worship - was the trinitarian God richly and clearly praised? Our Father who is hallowed, the Son who is celebrated and the Spirit who is honored... is our worship trinitarian?
- Gospel - whatever the subject, was the beauty, perfume, majesty, freedom of this glorious gospel clearly proclaimed in one or more of Jesus' works - life, death and resurrection - if not, then we must make a needed adjustment,
- Times - have we discerned the times of our church well? Which chapter of the big story are we in? What is the truth that God is revealing about himself to us? What is our call to response? Do we know it? Are we doing it? Sometimes a strong word is what is required but the preacher may go home wasted - just like a good parent needing to discipline their child yet is so tender afterwards!
- Seasons - as in the natural, so the supernatural. Is it a time of pruning, multiplication, or simply sowing? The true measure of growth is not how quickly one grows now or not, but how one copes with the pruning of God when it comes - oh it will come for sure!
- Priests - the God life flowing through the Jesus lovers is a far greater yardstick than the numbers in the crowd. No-one attracted a crowd like Jesus, yet he was more focussed on the obedience of the disciples than he was on the many looking for a miracle,
- Community - far deeper than a cool vibe, are the lonely going home lonely again or are they loved through their darkness? Are their broken hearts being bound up by the communion of Christ's community or is this a cool church for the hipster, the rich, the fancy, the appealing?
- Him - what did he say afterwards? That is still the loudest voice post meeting for me. When I get into the car after the gatherings, I need to know what my Father thinks. The voices of "men" are too fickle - the supporter will seek to applaud even when the Father isn't. We love having them around but they are not helpful. If we are always doing well by their comments, their voice cannot be trusted. The critic is not always a foe - to silence them is foolish, but to rely on them is ignorance. The only true voice is His!
- Multiplication - more people, more sites, more chairs are fun. But do they reflect the Father's favor? I am not sure they do. Obedience by faith , through grace, is what truly matters. Presenting "Jesus Lite" may attract a crowd but may not bring a divine smile that matches human accolades. Growth must be a byproduct, not a primary goal-its what God does. When we do it as our duty we are messing with God's order of things.
Guys, please watch the Monday reflections. They must empower us through great kingdom conversations - none more important than the one I have with Him.