Film poster for The Secret of My Succe$s – Copyright 1987, Universal Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Connecting the people in our community to Christ’s love through compassionate kindness — that’s our vision statement, the summary of what we are all about here at Shepherd of the Ridge. So if that’s the case, it makes sense that our goals, our measurements, and our celebrations revolve around that statement. That’s the point.
American churches tend to define success in terms of nickels and noses — donations and worship attendance. But that doesn’t have much to do with our vision statement, does it? While more people here on Sunday morning means that more people are hearing the Gospel and are therefore being connected with Christ’s love on some level, we specifically worded this statement to emphasize that we are about connecting people to Christ’s love, not necessarily to Shepherd of the Ridge, but by the way we measure success, you’d never know that. And as long as we continue to measure success incorrectly, we will always fail.
Albert Einstein is believed to have said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” God put us here for a specific purpose, but as long as we act like fish who are trying to climb trees, we treat God as if He is stupid.
On the contrary, God never told us to measure the success of the church by attendance or income. Jesus gave us the mandate to make disciples of all nations by Baptizing and teaching to obey all that He has commanded. And while disciples will want to gather for worship, gathering for worship does not make someone a disciple.
Then how do we measure success? The word “disciple” specifically includes following someone, Jesus in our case. So the number of disciples would be the number of those who seek to follow Jesus and are taking steps to be ever closer to Him. Numbers are important, but we want to count numbers of disciples, not numbers of attendees. So the number involved in spiritual growth and service opportunities like Journey Groups and Interest Groups is actually a better measure of the number of disciples, since those involved in such groups are taking visible steps to follow Jesus in their daily lives. That’s not to say that those who find other ways to follow are not disciples, but we have not yet developed a tool to measure that. That said, we do have a means to measure the degree of connection to Christ’s love through our Personal Spiritual Growth Evaluation Tool that many of you used last September. We will use that tool again this fall to determine how much growth we’ve seen as a congregation and how effective the groups have been compared to those not involved in a group.
Our measurements reflect our values, so from now on, we are going to measure — and celebrate — what we value:
I previously published a list of annual measurable goals. That’s a good place to start. Those goals include spiritual growth goals.
And because the church year does not match the calendar year, monthly worship attendance reports don’t give an accurate picture (e.g. Easter isn’t always the same month), so we will report attendance three times per year (early January, May, and September). That said, remember that this is a secondary measurement (a partial expression of discipleship) and not as important as our primary measures of success. We also seek to find better ways to report financial discipleship, but no matter how we report, we will keep our financial situation as clear as possible to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
Finally, remember that true success is an end in itself, not the means to false success. So the goal is not spiritual growth for the sake of higher worship attendance and income, but spiritual growth for the sake of spiritual growth, that each of us may get more connected to Christ’s love and then connect others as a result through compassionate kindness.
However, we do use wisdom to speak to those who are mature. It is a wisdom that doesn’t belong to this world or to the rulers of this world who are in power today and gone tomorrow. We speak about the mystery of God’s wisdom. It is a wisdom that has been hidden, which God had planned for our glory before the world began. Not one of the rulers of this world has known it. If they had, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory. But as Scripture says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God. After all, who knows everything about a person except that person’s own spirit? In the same way, no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit. Now, we didn’t receive the spirit that belongs to the world. Instead, we received the Spirit who comes from God so that we could know the things which God has freely given us. We don’t speak about these things using teachings that are based on intellectual arguments like people do. Instead, we use the Spirit’s teachings. We explain spiritual things to those who have the Spirit. A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the teachings of God’s Spirit. He thinks they’re nonsense. He can’t understand them because a person must be spiritual to evaluate them. Spiritual people evaluate everything but are subject to no one’s evaluation. “Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can teach him?” However, we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16, GWV)