Measuring the Church
I do model railroading as a hobby. My favorite part is building things: structures, bridges, and so forth. I love building a smaller (1:160) version of an actual building. But how do I know if it’s the same as the original? I have to measure it.
We use measurement almost everywhere. We measure our time, our income, and our weight. We measure the economy using GDP and unemployment. But something happens when we decide to measure something:
What we measure, we emphasize.
GDP, for example, measures total economic activity. It doesn’t take into account what is actually productive and what is wasted. So we maximize activity without looking at the quality of that activity. Unemployment measures the number of people looking for work, but not whether the rest have jobs, or how good those jobs are. Even our weight fails to tell us how healthy we really are.
What do we measure in our churches? Membership. Attendance. The size of the collection. We have three Scripture readings and five hymns. We know how long the sermon is supposed to be.
What did Jesus measure? We have no idea how many followers he had, nor does it appear that he used a collection plate. The Gospels put their emphasis elsewhere.
They measure faith. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed…” (Matthew 17:20)
They measure the nearness of the Kingdom. “The Kingdom of God is near!” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2)
They measure the number of people fed. (Mark 6, Mark 8)
The recount, and imply to be countless, healings, deliverances, and miracles.
They recount, and imply to be countless, moments of prayer and contemplation.
They measure the number of people who went out and did as Jesus was doing. (Matthew 10, Luke 10)
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) tells us to go forth, baptize, teach, and do what Jesus taught us to do. But how much does our ministry resemble his?
What we measure, we emphasize, and we don’t measure the same things.