Measuring Success

Posted: July 1, 2008 in Theology

Lately I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about how we can create welcoming space for people. Welcoming space on Sunday morning, welcoming space at our dinner table, welcoming space in our weekly schedule. I really don’t care much about how big or small our church is numerically, as though size were the primary indicator of faithfulness to Jesus. I do care what kind of a people we are as a church. I care about our lives and whether they’re lived well. I care about our focus and time and whether they align with what matters to God.

I had some great conversation with my cousin Luceta in Kansas a couple weeks ago at Grandpa Dave’s funeral. She’s a bonafide evangelist – which is a dirty word to most of us because everybody knows that evangelists have blue tights and a red cape and can leap tall intimidating conversations with strangers in a single bound whereas the rest of us are embarrassed not of Jesus but of coming off wrong. But speaking to her stirred something in me and made me think about some priority shifts. She told me about enrolling her daughter in dance lessons just because she knew a gal whose daughter was in that same lesson. They formed a relationship and eventually she earned enough credibility to share some Bible with her and…yep. You know the rest. She’s now a growing disciple.

Another lady played Tennis. Luceta doesn’t play tennis…until now. Yep. She’s one of these people that CARES. It’s a crazy idea – “I’m going to remember that as a Christian, you and I don’t have tons to relate to so I’m going to be the one to make a move in your direction and build a relationship via shared interests, which are really your interests because I’m only doing it for you, and then I’ll just love you until you finally say, ‘So what’s your deal, anyway?'”

She told me story after story of leading people to Jesus by getting to know them, befriending them, outloving their suspicion, and being verbally engaging with the Truth when the time came. These people are then incorporated into the life of the church, where they are grown up into servants, and then leaders, and sent out on church plants. Their church tends to stay around 300 because they keep sending out all the gifted leaders they just finished training.

They shut down Sunday morning worship for a whole month at one point because they were afraid that their people were beginning to think that Church was about the Sunday gathering, instead of a life of worship and mission. Instead of the usual corporate celebration, they encouraged their small groups to meet in their homes, and to invite their non-Christian neighbors over for food. A few small groups wasted the month, but not all did. Several families are now attending church as a result of that month.

Not that I plan to shut down Sunday morning worship any time soon, but I was thoroughly impressed by the radical measures Terry and Luceta took – and I trust are continuing to take. They know that Jesus’ Church is His mission outpost in the world, and they’re not going to settle for less than obedience.

You know, every week I look at that church register board and it says we’ve got roughly 150 people at Sunday School and 200 people in our worship gathering. That’s about as many as our little sanctuary can fit. That bothers me because I want a welcoming space for outsiders. Our register also tells me our offering is generally less than our weekly operating expenses by about $1,500. I can’t say I’m surprised, given the economy. But my point is this: The register is obviously our measuring tool for success – isn’t it? Or is it? It seems like if Jesus had a register, he’d count the missing sheep instead of those present. And instead of numbers, there would be names. I bet we’d know some of those names.

  1. Josh says:

    We must always ask these questions of ourselves and of our communities.

    That’s awesome what your cousin did. It’d be cool if it became an annual experience where the church begins to expect it and it becomes a part of the life of their community…part of who they are.

  2. Alice says:

    Thank you for believing the truth and for posting it here. I miss you guys…

  3. Richard says:

    I am glad for what you are bringing to our congregation. And to Tim’s friends-it is easy to see why they are missed, we welcome you to come visit them-and us!

  4. jeremy says:

    This connects with me. You could do an entire series on “welcoming” That might be really cool….hmm

  5. Beth and Dennis says:

    The message you delivered on Sunday was real and cut deep. A message we know but need to be shaken back into it’s realism. What is our hearts desire? If not Jesus we are lost. You have reminded us of the longing we used to have and are having once again. Thank you Pastor.

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