I have been involved in way too many conversations about designing metrics to help measure and ultimately improve the effectiveness of “the church”. I struggle deeply with this conversation every time. When you set out to measure a thing, you must first begin to break it down into the kinds of things you want to measure.
You must define the desired outcomes, so that you can measure various elements related to the outcomes. This is why I struggle. We are all so different in what we think the outcome of “church” and “church life” ought to be.
I wonder how Jesus would describe His desired outcome?
John 1:5 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 5:21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
It seems that what Jesus intended to deliver was not as measurable as we might prefer. When Jesus uses the word “life” in these instances, He is not simply referring to a body which is not dead. He is not even referring to living for an unending period of time.
Jesus delivered to the planet a substance, His Breath, which, when inserted into an inanimate body, makes said body alive. The breath of life is not simply measured by brain wave activity, nervous system function, or the presence of a pulse.
This is made even more complex when we realize that many of our human functions can actually take place without the kind of Life named repeatedly by Jesus. We can go to work. We can go swimming. We can speak in front of people or sing songs. We can fill rooms with humans, and provide loads of good knowledge. We can motivate people to engage in specific behaviors. And we can do all this without a single drop of the kind of life Jesus was referring to.
Worse, we can even measure all of these same activities without a single drop of this substance called life.
Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3) that we see the trees move, but we do not see the wind that moves it. He was telling Nick that some things we see with our eyes are moved by things we do not see with our eyes. Measure that. Which ones are moved by the Breath of Life and which ones are simply moved by human effort?
The concern is this. Most of what we may measure, would by necessity be measurable. This invisible intangible substance called spirit must by necessity be discerned by the Spirit.
We must begin to recognize that the product of the church is the very product that Jesus commissioned. He came that we might have life and life in abundance. Not a busy schedule. Not lots of exciting experiences. An abundance of this substance that makes dead things alive.
The church exists that the world might have life and life in abundance. Take a deep Breath.
For more on this thought see my April 10 Post from Words of Life