reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 47 : May we repent of measuring in ways that Jesus didn’t intend us to measure.

imageMETRICS. A method of measuring something.

There are traditional “metrics” for measuring the success of “church.” But should there be? And if so, how should “church” really be measured?

To question whether there should be metrics of “church” is futile. People are always going to measure. We need to do some honest evaluation, though, on HOW we should measure, since we are going to anyway.

An important fact to remember is that church is a “who” not a “what” (see suggestions # 35 & 46). Therefore, church is an organism more than an organization. Therefore, church must be measured less like an organization would be ane more like an organism would be.

There is some crossover, yes, because organisms are organized. The human body, for instance, is organized into systems that make it function. But we don’t measure the health of the human body by whether it still has organization. We measure it by whether the organism is still alive. 

How do we typically measure the health of an organism? Specifically a person?

In 2007, BBC released results of a brief study entitled “How Do You Know You Are Healthy?” In summary:

  • Weight (or size) is not an indicator of healthy. Someone can be small with a high metabolism but never exercise and be in poorer health than someone heavier who exercises regularly.
  • Blood pressure metrics can indicate either a healthy or unhealthy circulation system. Being able to walk a mile in 15 minutes without blood pressure sky rocketing indicates healthy circulation.
  • A low resting heartbeat can indicate a healthy cardiac system. Being able to do common everyday tasks, like carrying two grocery bags from the checkout to the car, with little evidence of being active (sweat, breathlessness, rise in heartbeat, chest or muscle pain) indicates health.
  • A respitory rate of 16 to 20 breaths per minute indicates health, as does climbing the stairs in a house without getting breathless.

These are signs of life and signs of liveliness. I would suggest if this is how you measure the health of an organism, and if church is a who not a what, then these health indicators can be summarized into healthy “church” metric statements in the following ways:

  • With regard to weight, being big or small does not indicate actual health. Butts, buildings and budgets being large or small don’t necessarily mean you are healthy or unhealthy, and aren’t always healthy evaluations of whether we are functioning as Jesus intended.
  • With regard to circulation, is loving God and loving one another and loving neighbors and making disciples and caring for the poor and relating with the lonely happening freely, or does normal “church” activity clog up and get in the way of those things happening?
  • With regard to the heartbeat, are people learning the Gospel of Jesus and living the ways of the Kingdom of God and seeing “on earth as it is in heaven” in everyday rhythms, or does normal “church” activity create high stress and stifling anxiety among those who lead and participate?
  • With regard to breathing, are people witnessing the demonstration of abundant life and the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their everyday relationships, or does normal “church” activity make people feel breathless and exhausted and weary?

These may be healthier metric questions than the normal ones the “churched” typically use, because they relate to life more than looks, to purpose more than outcome.

As was suggested in the last suggestion, we cannot control outcome. To pretend that we can would imply that we control the harvest and that we determine what is reaped. This is not the case! We can be purposeful, though. If this is the case, why do we measure our outcome rather than our purpose?

Jesus defined our purpose as His followers, as His church.

  • If He purposed us to believe and help others believe, then we might ask are people discovering their identity in Christ and security in the Gospel of Jesus?
  • If He purposed us to make disciples, then we might as are disciples making disciples who make disciples who make disciples?
  • If He purposed us to care for AND send, then we might ask are people being encouraged and cared for and equipped and sent or just encouraged and cared for?
  • If He purposed us to embody love and grace, then we might ask are love and grace and forgiveness common characteristics of the people, or are disgust and criticism and grudges common characteristics of the people?
  • If He purposed us to speak Truth in Love, then we might ask are constructive input and creative solutions welcomed, or do complaints and gossip abound?
  • If He purposed us to be fruitful and multiply, then we might ask is fruit evident? What kind? And are disciples bearing disciples of Jesus or of themselves only? And are the best leaders being regulated or released?
  • If He purposed us to be the church day to day and house to house, then we might ask are all 168 hours of the week being emphasized and celebrated as the story of the church, or just two hours on Sunday?

Most importantly, however, is the question of God’s involvement. Humans can accomplish a lot without God (remember the Tower of Babel). But what are we accomplishing WITH God?

Of all that is happening, would most of it be impossible without the presence of Jesus, or would most of it be possible whether He was present or not?

Neil Cole teaches that “Church is the presence of Jesus among His people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet.” I agree. Assuming that is true, what among all “church” activity in which you participate requires the presence of Jesus, and what does not? That alone would be a healthy metric for “church.”

The bottom line is this _ Measure what matters only for the purpose of helping what matters happen.

If the way we measure “church” hinders Christ’s intended function for His church, then let’s repent of it and leave those metrics behind.

For further thought, here is an encouraging thought from Verge Network entitled “how to know if you’re being faithful to Jesus (it’s probably not what you think).”

Advertisements

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 46 : May we repent of emphasizing “church” in such a way that “church” becomes a relic.

imageRELIC. An object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.

That people in any culture could even think of “church” as a relic is an indictment upon those who consider themselves “churched” as well as an indication that we the church are not functioning as Jesus intended.

I have not met a leader among those who consider themselves “churched” who would ever teach “church” as a place or event. Everyone one of them I have spoken with agrees that “church” is people, a family of Christ-followers on mission with Jesus. Everyone of them would agree that “church” is a “who,” not a “what.”

However, I know too many leaders who may think of “church” that way and from time to time may even teach “church” that way, but still emphasize “church” as a place or an event. In other words, what they emphasize of “church” does not match what they would teach of “church” nor what the New Testament teaches about “church.” Even though the New Testament never does, too many leaders emphasize “church” by speaking of “church” only as something to come TO or to go FROM or to be AT or to sit IN.

Those same leaders would never think of growing a “church” or building a “church” as a bad thing. But too often they lead and emphasize “church” as something they can grow or something they can build. “Church” thought of in this way and emphasized in this way is a gross misunderstanding of the way the New Testament refers to “church.”

“Church” emphasized as a place to build or an event to grow will become a relic.

God never intended His church to function as a place or event. And God certainly never intended His church to become a relic. Yet, “relic” is a word that European and Canadian and much of American culture might use to describe what they know of “church.”

As strange as it sounds, it is like we have forgotten that God “builds” and “grows” His church.

And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.
(Matthew 16:17-18 HCSB)

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:5-7 HCSB)

People comment, “The church is in decline!” That is a relic statement. If God builds and grows His church, as He intended, and we join Him as He does, then His church that He builds and grows CANNOT decline nor become a relic!

If we try to build and grow the “church” as some place or event that needs to recover from decline, then we are already perpetuating decline before we ever attempt to do something about what we perceive is declining.

The crisis of the modern church is NOT “how will the church recover from and survive decline?” The crisis of the modern church is the same as the crisis of the early church – will we unite in Christ’s love to join Jesus as He seeks to make the lost found?

If the lost become found in our communities through disciple-making the way Jesus did and does it, then our local expressions of His church would not be declining or struggling to survive!

The church Jesus intended is sent as He was sent (John 20:21). The sent church doesn’t just ask how to build or grow a church. They ask how to send the church to help others discover that Jesus also wants them as His bride.

If “church” as you know it is threatening to become a “relic,” then “church” as you know it is not functioning as Jesus intended.

His church cannot and will not become a relic.

May we repent of emphasizing “church” in such a way that those who consider themselves “church” as well as those from the surrounding culture could ever, ever think of “church” as a relic.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 43 : May we repent of expending so many resources on ourselves.

imageAccording to the Issachar Initiative, “99% of Christian mission effort and financial support goes to places where the church is already present.” They pose a very appropriate but indicting question:

“There are more than 2.3 billion Christians, more than 5 million churches, more than 43,000 denominations, and more than 12 million Christian workers across the globe. With all these resources amassed, why is it that the task of [making disciples of all the nations] is still unfinished?”

Don’t take this as another young, passionate leader’s plea to spend all of our money “where Christ is yet to be named,” as Paul wrote in Romans. But very seriously, for the sake of the Gospel, what would be so wrong with dedicating a little more than 1% of mission effort and financial support?

I am a pastor of a small-town, county-seat, northeast Mississippi, First Baptist Church. Some of the people with our church family feel strongly that there is too much ministry right around us to be giving resources and people elsewhere. Some of the people are extremely supportive of giving generously into ministry elsewhere, and do. My thought, however, is not to forsake the local for the global. My thought is not to give every dime away and not be able to dedicate resources into disciple-making right here in our Jerusalem and Judea. My suggestion is to dedicate half to the local and half to the global. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

Seems like I’ve read that somewhere before (Acts 1:8).

Something else the Scriptures challenge us to do is this:

“What then should we do? ” the crowds were asking him. He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
(Luke 3:10-11 HCSB)

John the Baptist voiced something there that Jesus would echo for the rest of Luke. If you have two shirts, give one away. Do the same with your food.

What might happen if we applied that? I am confessing to you that I am not sure we even know how to begin. But what if we did?

What if my family surrendered our budget to using half what we make for our family and giving the other half away?

What if we dedicated both money and leaders to actually making disciples, half where the church is sending from and half where the church is sending to?

Neil Cole is known for teaching that if one disciple of Jesus made one disciple of Jesus one particular year, then they each made one the next year, then they all made one the next year, and so on, then mathematically speaking every individual on earth right now would have been engaged in a disciple-making relationship within 34 years.

34 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It has been 2000 years since Jesus put on skin and dwelt among us! What on earth have we been doing as His church? It certainly hasn’t been “on earth as it is in heaven!”

I would suggest that those who consider themselves “churched” need to repent of expending so much money and resources and leaders on ourselves.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. You severely disciplined Sodom and Gomorrah and the people of Israel and Judah for ignoring the poor and alone around them. Please have mercy on us and help us to love even the least of these like You do. Help us to remember that we ourselves are “the least of these” and how You have loved us with everything You had. Help us to go and do the same.

If you want to learn more about the Issachar Initiative, here you go:

The Issachar Initiative exists to serve the body of Christ by bringing vision and focus so its resources are strategically directed toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. To become a trusted source of information influencing ministry activities and financial investments toward the least-reached people of the world helping to fulfill the missional aspect of the Great Commission.

Check out their very well-produced introductory video, calling the church to extreme, gracious generosity:

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 42 : May we repent of dismissing all tradition but commit to redefining tradition.

imageTradition. “A long-established custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation.”

For some among the “churched,” the definition may go something a little more like this – “A long-established custom or belief that is expected to never perish and expected to be held just as dearly by the next generation and fosters serious complaining if it isn’t.”

The problem comes when the traditions of the “churched” are not the traditions of Jesus.

Another problem exists, though, among the “churched,” especially among those passionate leaders wanting to see change. It is the problem of dismissing any and all traditions that exist.

Just because something has always been done does not mean it needs to always be done. However, some traditions are cultural expressions of beliefs and behaviors faithful to the purposes and mission of Jesus. To dismiss all tradition as no longer needed in some cases dismisses something that the church of Jesus needs to continue to do.

Furthermore, for a passionate leader who hopes to see change to dismiss all tradition, connection with and respect of a significant group of the “churched” is lost. Those who have held certain traditions dear may not be opposed to change and something new. They may actually want to be a part of refocusing and looking ahead toward joining God in the fresh and new ways He may be working around us.

One suggestion.

Let’s redefine tradition.

And let’s filter through what actually are Christ-honoring versus people-preferred traditions.

A new definition?

I heard Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, define tradition in this way:

“That which always must be done.”

Think about the difference between “that which has always been done” and “that which always must be done.” There’s a BIG difference. One is based objectively on God-given objectives while one is based preferentially on preferences held by the “churched.”

To commit to what always must be done, that would be healthy.

Why?

Because our “musts” as the church are not based upon what the body feels like doing, but what the Head prompts us to do. That which always must be done is not based upon what the flock desires to be up to, but what the Shepherd directs us to do. Our Christ-honoring traditions are not based upon how the bride wants to be loved, but how the Groom has loved us and now calls us to love.

Don’t dismiss all traditions. But do redefine tradition, so that we can properly filter the ones that are based on preference and surrender to join Jesus in the ones that are based on His intended function for His church.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 41 : May we repent of not valuing the older people among the “churched.”

imageWith regard to those who consider themselves “churched,” there are some who wish to see something “new” and fruitful and alive again. Among them, there is a tendency that is both unhealthy and unwise. Passionate leaders who want to move in a new direction often do not value the important role that the older generation is to play. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, actually mentions their vital part in God’s redemptive and renewing mission:

And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 
(Acts 2:17 HCSB)

I want to suggest we need to repent of not valuing and not involving the “older” people among the “churched” like we should. Part of this, however, in my opinion, is to blame on the passionate leader, while part is to blame on the older generation themselves. Here’s what I mean.

To the passionate leader – no one is as passionate about the vision you have as you are. Let me encourage you with a few things. Pray and ask Jesus to:

  • filter your vision for “the movement you want to start” to actually reflect and to fully participate in the movement Jesus started.
  • give you wisdom regarding the strategic way you will equip followers of Jesus OF ALL AGES to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus in their daily relationships.
  • help you not just to use people for the vision you have but to help lead and encourage people to discover God’s vision for how their stories fit into His grander story.

To the older generation among the “churched” – we can’t thank you enough for years and years of giving and serving. Let me encourage you with a few things. Pray and ask Jesus to:

  • remind you of His purposes and how you yourselves continue to fit into His purposes.
  • help you to think more about His mission than you do about the church budget and more about mentoring than you do the style of worship in Sunday gatherings.
  • give you wisdom regarding how to take the initiative to mentor and encourage and support the next generation, recognizing they also have a sober desire to see the work of God alive just like you do.

The older generation is vital to the mission of and the health of local churches. But their purpose is clear in the New Testament. They are not to be coddled and catered to. They are not to be appeased. Rather, they are to be reminded of Paul’s clear directive to Timothy and to Titus:

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 
(2 Timothy 2:2 HCSB)

Older men are to be level headed, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. 
(Titus 2:2-5 HCSB)

What aches my heart is when I hear the older generation among the “churched” cry out to be “fed” and to be cared for. What aches my heart is that they are missing the very significant fact that when they take the initiative to care for and mentor and teach the younger generations the ways of Christ, they will be “fed” and cared for by the very young people with whom they build disciple-making relationships.

What aches my heart is when I hear passionate leaders do nothing but complain about the older generation. They are not a problem!!! They are a purposeful part of the solution of what is needed most for the church to function as Jesus intended. What aches my heart is when I hear passionate leaders dismiss the important purpose older leaders play in the ongoing mission of Jesus.

May we repent of not valuing the “older” among the “churched.”

Lord Jesus, please help leaders to see the value of the older generation. And please help the older generation to see the life-generating value of giving themselves away into the young. For Your Gospel’s sake and for Your glory. Amen.