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).”

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 40 : May we repent of preservation as an emphasis among the “churched.”

imageI often wonder if we have misinterpreted the Parable of the Wineskins. At least as I have typically heard it taught. I am not sure it has anything to do with giving up old ways to try new ways OR change and tradition not being able to exist together OR older people needing to make way for the preferences of younger people.

I wonder if it has to do with fulfilling God’s purpose in our intended season. I wonder if it has to do with the ongoing restoration of our King making all things new.

If this is the case, then preservation of what we have held as priority of purpose may need to surrender to prioritizing the Purpose that has always been preserved.

God’s purpose, to be exact. Not what the church has always done, but rather what the church is to always be doing.

It is not as simple as “same old message told with some new methods.” In line with the very purpose of this blog, implementing new “church” methods results in nothing but new “churched” forms, unless the intended function of the church is emphasized and lived.

But in too many cases, the “churched” fight to preserve “church” as they have known it. That’s not quite what Paul meant when he told Timothy he had fought the good fight. The “good fight,” or more literally translated “the good struggle,” is exactly that – the struggle that comes when those who live with Jesus on His good mission to declare His eternal love to His estranged beloved struggle against the evil forces who strive to undercut that mission by destroying God’s beloved before they believe they are loved.

When we fight to preserve “church” as we have known it, like it’s some self-absorbed experience or event intended for the “churched,” then we become agents of the evil forces striving to undercut the good mission.

Erwin McManus asserts one important point that we tend to overlook in his book Unstoppable Force. He suggested that the church as an organism rather than an organization tends to act more like an organization rather than an organism. One way the church does this is by trying to preserve church as an organization. This was never intended. Church is an organism. Organisms die.

Now, all metaphors break down. This one breaks down at the point of “the church dying” in the sense of ceasing to exist, which according to Jesus is not going to happen. But that was not Erwin’s point.

Like a seed that is planted dying to become the fruit-bearing plant it was intended to be, the church must always die to themselves to become the fruit-bearing people Jesus intended us to be. The moment we begin to exist for ourselves is the moment we quit functioning as Jesus intended.

Grandparents love their grandchildren. My dad listens to Lecrae because his grandchildren want to while they ride with him. They, in turn, listen to Willie Nelson because their granddad wants to. Maybe not as often, but still, you get the point.

The Grandparent lives to give life to the grandkids. We as the church must do the same.

That’s why making disciples of Jesus must remain the only purpose of the church, defining all programs of the church, never just an add on to church activities.

Lord Jesus, help us not to preserve what we have but to join You to give away what we have been given.