MEASUREMENT & The Goal of the Great Commission: To Make Disciples

x-in-organix“Chapter 8: MEASURE” is excerpted with permission from ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011), pp. 139-156 (copyright by Bob Whitesel).

Let’s break through to the real reasons for growth or non-growth… Let’s put diagnostic tools into the hands of pastors, people … so they will see, clearly and scientifically the real situation. – Donald McGavran, Fuller Seminary Dean Emeritus[i]

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

When Things Add Up

Jerry was preparing to hire two staff members. And, though he looked forward to adding new staff at First Church, he always felt uncomfortable with these interviews. Thus, he was taken back when he heard the sounds of merriment and laughter coming from the waiting room. “This is some way to start an interview,” Jerry thought as he opened the door.

In the waiting room Jerry found an older gentleman, a thirty-ish young man and a middle-aged woman laughing, conversing and chatting with such excitement that he could scarcely interject a word. Finally, Jerry blurted out, “Who is here for the job interview for Pastor to Senior Adults?” to which the young man and the older gentleman both raised their hands. “Well who is here for the position of Young Adults Pastor?” to which all three raised their hands. Spontaneously, they all broke into laughter again. “You see,” said Joan. “We’ve known each other for years, but we had no idea we were applying for the same two jobs. I haven’t seen Gordon and Joel for years, and I guess we just got carried away by the reunion.”

To Jerry there was something comforting in their camaraderie. “Well, we can start this interview together and then break out separately,” Jerry suggested, which they all thought was a good idea. Sitting down in Jerry’s office, he began to read their résumés. “Joan, it says here you pastored at Aldersgate Church. I pastored there years ago.” “I followed you, I think,” came Joan’s reply. “Aldersgate, that was a hard nut to crack,” continued Jerry. “But eventually, when they let me start counting spiritual progress and stop tracking attendance so closely we began to grow.” “What do you mean?” interjected Joel, who had always been a bit impolite when his interest was pricked. “You see,” Jerry continued, “after a few years at Aldersgate Church things weren’t adding up. Positive things were happening but it wasn’t reflected in our attendance numbers. The congregants were more unified than they’d been in a decade. And, a growing ministry to the Hispanic community had been positive, with a nearby Hispanic church growing because of their generosity. I thought to myself, ‘there’s got to be a better way to measure a church’s growth.’ One night I sat down at my computer and sent an e-mail to a young pastor friend in Atlanta. I described Aldersgate’s situation and waited for an e-mail reply. Before I turned in for the night, I found this reply from Aaron: ‘Before you go to bed tonight read Acts 2:42-47. I’ll call you in the morning’.”

For the next hour Jerry recounted how Aaron’s suggestion had led him to measure a church’s health by spiritual metrics, and not attendance numbers. Jerry had inherited a badly divided church at Aldersgate. But, his hard work had brought about an improvement in unity. Jerry recalled, “One lady said, ‘we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough’.” To track the growing unity Jerry would regularly ask people if they sensed the church was more or less unified than last year. Jerry also tracked the number of congregants in small groups such as Sunday School classes, Bible-study groups and even committees. “I wanted to see if people were growing in their devotion to Bible-study, fellowship, meals together and prayer gatherings, as it says in Acts 2:42. These things seemed more important to measure than how many I could get to show up on Sunday morning.” As Jerry continued Joan, Gordon and Joel peppered him with questions and impressions. And, before long all had lost track of the time. Finally, a knock at the door interrupted their lively discussion.

“I’m leaving now, it’s the end of the work day,” came the voice of Jerry’s assistant. “Do you want me to schedule more interviews next week?” Suddenly Joan, Gordon and Joel were brought back to reality. There were three of them, and only two jobs. “No, don’t schedule any more for next week. I think I’ve found our staff members.” With that the assistant departed, but for Joan, Gordon and Joel anxiety took his place. Neither wanted to take the other’s position, but all relished the idea of working with a creative pastor like Jerry. After some uncomfortable minutes of silence, Jerry spoke again. “I’ve made my decision, if the church board agrees. I think Joel would make an excellent Young Adult Pastor.” Gordon and Joan both smiled, and Joan winked at Joel. After all, Joan and Gordon had only suggested themselves for the job because of what they had learned through Joel’s friendship. “And for the Senior Adult Pastor I will suggest Gordon to the board,” Jerry continued. Now elation was tempered. Both Joel and Gordon felt that Joan had been their pastor, and she had been in the ministry longer. Spontaneously they hugged and tears of joy and sorrow began to flow down Gordon’s face. After a minute they composed themselves and congratulated the two men. “I don’t know what you are getting all weepy about,” came Jerry’s reply after an awkward silence. “I don’t know where we’ll find the money, but I think we should create a new position of Pastor to Adults for Joan. I’ve needed help for some time, and I think your experiences and your spirits are right for this church. Welcome home.”

And with that four circular routes reconnected and resulted in fruitful years of ministry. Here at First Church lessons learned in so many diverse congregations and locales had come together to spread ever increasingly the good news of God’s mission.

X is for “Measurement”

This chapter will discuss measurement. Yet, not just any kind of measurement, but ways to measure spiritual growth and its relationship to effective leadership. However, when the words spiritual and measurement are linked together, church leaders often cringe. Such phrases give the impression of either excessive scrutiny or over simplification. Thus, let’s begin with a short investigation into the rationale for measuring spiritual growth.

Is Measurement Spiritual?

The Scriptures are replete with examples of appraisal and assessment, especially when describing how spiritual seekers mature along their spiritual journey. The numberings in Numbers 1:2 and 26:2 reminded a Jewish nation that a lack of pre-exodus faith had resulted in many of them forfeiting the blessings of the promised land. And Luke’s numberings in Acts 1:15, 2:41 and 4:4 reminded the Christian church that even amid persecution, the Christian community matured and spread from the imperial backwaters of Jerusalem to the Roman capital.

Still, some argue against counting, claiming that David was punished for ordering a census of Israel in 1 Chron. 21:1-30. But, a closer look reveals that David was punished by God because in the face of an overwhelming opponent, David sought to count his men to bolster his faith rather than trust in God’s assistance. David’s err was not his counting, but because he counted for inappropriate reasons. And yet, this story of David’s inappropriate counting can be a warning for all who would count today. If you are counting because you need to bolster your faith, then your err is the same as David’s. Measurement should not be a substitution for faith, but an indication of God’s moving among his people.

Let’s look at how modern leadership and millennial leadership differ in their approaches to measurement. This comparison can help tomorrow’s leaders see what should be counted and what should not.

A Peril of Modern Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

Modern Miscue 1. Grow a church’s growth in conversion and attendance.

Just one modern miscue will be investigated in this chapter, because it contrasts significantly with three more organic measurements. The modern miscue is to put too much reliance in measuring conversion and attendance as an indicator of leadership effectiveness.

1.a. Counting Conversion. First let me say that conversion is a critically important experience for every spiritual traveler.[ii] Let’s define what we are talking about using an accepted definition by psychologist and philosopher William James:

(conversion is) “…the process, gradual or sudden, by which the self hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy becomes united and consciously right, superior and happy in consequence to its firmer hold upon religions realities.”[iii]

Such conversion is an important response to God’s mission (the missio Dei) for it describes a second birth where a person begins a new life reunited with her or his heavenly Father. The Bible states, “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Such changes are countable, but there are two caveats to counting conversion.

  • Conversion can happen gradually or suddenly, thus counting is difficult. A sudden conversion to Christianity is easily noted, while a more gradual conversionary experience is harder to count. Let’s look at how the Bible describes both types of conversion and therefore how effectively counting all conversions becomes difficult.
    • Sudden Conversion. Today when people think of conversion they usually think of a sudden conversion like that of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). Many people, including this author, have experienced conversion in this abrupt and unmistakable way.
    • Progressive Conversion. But, if we look at how most of Jesus’ disciples were converted, we see a more gradual progression. Fuller Seminary’s Richard Peace emphasizes that:

“What Mark sought to communicate in his Gospel was the process by which these twelve men gradually turned, over time, from their culturally derived understanding of Jesus as a great teacher to the amazing discovery that he was actually the Messiah who was the Son of God.”[iv]

Scot McKnight adds that “for many Christians conversion is a process of socialization,”[v] meaning that it is in the company and companionship of other Christians that many people gradually convert to Christ.

  • Counting conversion is difficult because it is a supernatural work of God’s Spirit, occurring on God’s timetable. Conversion involves a God who declares, “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( 55:9). Thus, as Jesus pointed out, trying to tally up conversions is like trying to count the wind:

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” (John 3:8, Msg.).

And when Luke describes the growth of the early church, he stresses God’s involvement, writing, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The scriptural emphasis is that being saved from the penalty of one’s sin happens when the Holy Spirit and a human’s free will intersect. Subsequently, counting conversations is not a good indicator of leadership, for it happens at different paces and as the result of a divine intersection.[vi]

1.b Counting attendance. Perhaps because conversion is such an inscrutable intersection, counting church attendance has become the common alternative. Yet attendance at an event, worship celebration, etc. can be artificially skewed by many factors. Figure 8.1 includes just a few temporary factors that can artificially skew attendance growth, making it an inconsistent measurement.

Figure 8.1 Temporary Types of Attendance Growth

Temporary Types of Attendance Growth
Forces affecting

temporary attendance growth:

Actions that can

create temporary growth:

 

Curiosity:

·       New facility is built

·       New pastor is hired

·       New program initiated

 

 

 

Entertainment:

 

·       Special musical guest(s)

·       Special speaker(s)

·       Church becomes the “it” church, meaning it is inordinately popular and thus people want to associate with it.[vii]

 

 

Population changes:

 

 

·       Growing neighborhood surrounding the church

·       Church attracts an emerging culture (ethnic, age group, etc.) from the neighborhood.

In the examples above, temporary and artificial reasons, not leadership, may be driving attendance growth.

Therefore, if modern ways of measuring leadership by counting conversion and attendance are difficult to decipher at best, perhaps Luke has given hints of better indicators. Let’s look at the verses preceding Acts 2:47 and see if more relevant measurement tools emerge.

3 Attitudes of Millennial Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

In Acts 2:42-47 Luke describes Jerusalem’s reaction to Peter’s first sermon.[viii] A fresh Spirit-infused community has come into being, and thus measuring it (as Luke always likes to do) requires new metrics.[ix] In Acts 2:42 Luke writes that as a result of Peter’s sermon,

“They devoted themselves….

  • to the apostles’ teaching
  • and to fellowship,
  • to the breaking of bread
  • and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Let’s start with the word “devoted,” which comes from two Greek words: pros- meaning “a goal striven toward”[x] and karterountes meaning “steadfast, to hold out, to endure.”[xi] The New International Version translates this “devoted,” but the New American Standard Bible translates it more accurately as “continuing steadfastly.” A compromise might be to say that they “steadfastly strove for the goals of …”

The subsequent phrases indicate four goals of this steadfast striving: learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer. What a refreshing metric. Luke is not measuring bodies, but hunger for knowledge, unity, community and prayer. In the new millennium measurement is not about how many warm bodies show up at an event, but how much committed community emerges.

Growth in maturity is one way to label this growth. But, we shall see shortly that growth in maturity is not easily measured. Yet, if we calculate it in the same way year after year (for instance count the number of people involved in Bible studies and prayer groups) we can catch a glimpse of Luke’s intent: to measure how God grows within and through his followers. Before we look at tools that can measure growth in maturity, let’s investigate three more measurements Luke describes in Acts 2:42-47.

Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

Acts 2:44-45 describes a growing trust within the fledgling church. This resulted in their selling of their possessions to help on another. Some throughout history have taken this passage to suggest that true discipleship is only to be found by living a communal lifestyle where all possessions are shared.[xii] However, if communal living was to be the norm for the Christian church, then Paul, Peter, James and others would have admonished churches in Corinth, Antioch, Philippi, Jerusalem and elsewhere to adopt a communal lifestyle. Scholar Everett Harrison adds an interesting insight, “this was not the forsaking of the principle of private ownership, since the disposal and distribution of their possessions was occasioned ‘as anyone might have need.’ When the need became known, action was taken based on loving concern.”[xiii] What Luke is emphasizing is a heightened trust and unity that is growing in the church. Followers are becoming confident they could rely on one another, even with which they formerly valued most: their money and assets.

Such actions describe a deeper unity and trust among believers than they had known before. This is a second type of church growth and makes more sense to track than conversions or attendance. Growth in unity is one way to label this emerging inter-reliance. Again, measuring this will be subjective and require some effort to calculate. But, we will see that a simple congregational questionnaire administered yearly and anonymously can glean congregational perceptions of whether unity is growing or waning.

Degree of unity is an important measurement that is often overlooked by denominational measurement methods too. For instance, in the story that began this chapter (and based upon an true account) Pastor Jerry had inherited a badly divided congregation. His hard work had brought about an improvement in unity, as exemplified in a congregant’s comment that “we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough.” However, because the church was experiencing a plateau in attendance and the denomination was not tracking growth in unity, Jerry’s progress was not evident to the denomination. We might ask ourselves, “was Pastor Jerry growing the church?” Yes. “Was he growing it in a way that was helpful and valuable?” Yes. “But, was this growth evident to the denomination?” No. Herein lies the problem. We are measuring things like conversion and attendance, which human leadership has only limited ability to influence, and we are overlooking important metrics of church growth, such as a church growing in unity. In the next section we will look at tools that can measure growth in unity as well.

Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

The Acts 2:47 phrase, “and enjoying the favor of all the people” describes in concise terms a growing appreciation for the church among community residents. Here we see that manifold connections and service to the community result in favor, esteem and a good opinion from those outside of the congregation. The community does not regard the church as mongers, dogmatists or self-absorbed elitists. Instead, the church seems to have been serving the community with such joyful enthusiasm, that people genuinely respected and valued their presence. Here is another refreshing metric which Luke choose to describe.

Therefore, measuring growth in favor among non-churchgoers can ascertain if community favor is increasing or declining. But, there is a caveat. Growing in favor does not mean catering to immoral elements in a community in hopes of currying their favor. Rather this verse describes what happens when a church applies biblical principles of love, fairness, truth-telling and compassion in a non-churchgoing community. This results in the community returning to them favor and respect. Such regard can be seen in an observation of the early church leader Tertullian, who wrote that non-Christians often commented, “Behold, how they love one another.”[xiv] We shall now see how measuring a church’s impact and esteem in a community be an effective tool to measure leadership.

Nurturing the 3 Attitudes Regarding: – Measurement

Growth in favor is similar to maturity growth and unity growth, in that all three are must rely upon subjective assessment. As noted, this may be why modern leaders often take the easy route of counting physical attributes of attendance and conversion. But subjective measurement is a reliable tool if consistent and commonsense questionnaires are employed. After years of applying the following tools among client churches and students, I have found that the following assessment tools are a helpful starting place.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

This is one of the easier types of growth to measure. Acts 2:42 describes how the young church steadfastly strove for goals of “…the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Every church has groups that center around these purposes. Thus, by counting the percentage of people involved in small groups where teaching takes place, fellowship takes place, shared meals take place and prayer takes place, a church can begin to get a general picture of spiritual progress (or regress).

1.a Count up all of your small groups. Figure 8.2 suggests typical small groups and how they might correlate to the categories mentioned Acts 2:42. When counting groups, limit yourself to small groups as defined in Chapter 3 as “less than 20 people meeting 1+ times a month.”[xv] Measuring changes in participation in these small groups can be a general indicator of changes in how many congregants are actively striving for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

Figure 8.2 Groups Who Might Exemplify Growth in Maturity

“They devoted themselves to … Small groups in a church that might exemplify this:
 

 

 

…the apostles’ teaching…

1.     Bible studies

2.     Sunday school classes

3.     Newcomer classes

4.     Membership classes

5.     Confirmation classes

6.     Baptism classes

7.     Any regular gathering or class encouraging Christian education

 

 

…to fellowship…

1.     Hobby groups

2.     Sport teams

3.     Any regular gathering or class primarily fostering Christian fellowship

 

 

… to the breaking of bread…

1.     Lunches together

2.     Dinners together

3.     Any gathering promoting Christian community with a meal

 

 

…and to prayer…

1.     Prayer meetings

2.     Participation in prayer programs such as prayer triplets, prayer covenants, etc.[xvi]

3.     Participation at prayer times (at the altar, in the prayer room, etc.)

Still, measuring all groups in Figure 8.2 could be cumbersome for many churches due to the large number of groups involved. Therefore, let’s limit ourselves to those small groups that are easier to detect, i.e. those orientated around biblical teaching or engaged in prayer.[xvii]

1.b Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3). A church’s emerging spiritual maturity could be estimated and changes tracked by counting up the number of participants in groups that are focused on Bible study or prayer. Figure 8.3 shows how to tally up the number of participants in these groups and track changes from year to year.

Figure 8.3: Tracking Growth in Maturity (example in grey)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years

Number of people involved  

Total

Involvement

 

 

 

 

 

Church Attend-ance[xviii]

Composite Maturation Number
Bible study groups (adult)

·  Sunday Schools

·  Any small group w/ a Bible focus

Prayer groups (adult)

·  Prayer meetings & events

·  Prayer programs

Total Involvement divided by

Church Attendance

 

% of Change

 

2008 34 16 50 200 25 %
2009 45 18 63 203 31 % + 6 %
2010 49 23 72 199 36 % + 6 %

The goal of Figure 8.3 is to see movement toward a higher percentage of congregants involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups. In the example above (in grey), the church has been plateaued for three years. But, by computing the “Composite Maturation Number” we find that involvement in prayer and Bible study groups has actually grown 5% and then 6% per year (for a total of 11%). This growth in maturity demonstrates that something good is happening, but unless the Composite Maturation Number is tracked a denomination will usually not notice this.

In addition, because each church is unique, a church should not try to compare its scores with anyone but itself. This score will show you only if you are changing in the number of people who are participating in groups that focus primarily on Bible study or prayer. Therefore, compare them only with yourself to gauge year-by-year changes in congregational commitment to Bible study and prayer.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

2.a Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4). Congregants usually have a good sense of whether unity in the congregation is improving or waning. A simple Likert-type scale with two questions (Figure 8.4) can be administered to congregants once a year, and improvement or deterioration in a church’s perceptions of unity can be tracked.[xix]

Figure 8.4: Tracking a Church’s Perceptions of Growth in Unity

Growth in Unity
 

Our church is more unified than last year.

1.                  2.                  3.                4.                          5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 

I trust our church leadership more than last year .

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 Given: once per year  Given when: at each worship celebration  Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred

2.b Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership. The purpose of tracking growth in unity is not necessarily to score high, but to be moving higher. And, each question measures a different attribute of unity that should be increasing.

Question 1: Assesses perceptions of unity among congregants.

Question 2: Assesses perceptions of unity of the congregation with church leadership.

Again these numbers should not be bantered around between congregations. These scales are not relevant to boasting or bravado. Rather these scales measure progress (or regress) in congregational unity. For example, a church that has a low self-esteem may initially score poorly on this scale. But, in subsequent years if the numbers move upward them the congregation’s perception of its unity is increasing. This does not mean unity has always increased, but it does indicate that something is going on that is increasing a congregational sense of unanimity.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

3.a Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5). A Likert-type questionnaire is helpful here too, for it measures changes in attitudes. Here we will not poll the congregation, but the non-churchgoing community. I use the term non-churchgoers in an attempt to be sensitive to labels, for these are people who may go to another church, synagogue, temple or mosque but who are not churchgoers at your place of worship. They include community leaders and opinion makers such as community officials, school principals/superintendents, business people, community leaders, etc.

3.b Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency. When possible, attempt to poll the same people every year to ensure that you are tracking changes in perception among the same local opinion makers. Figure 8.5, when given to community leaders, can help track changing perceptions of favor toward a local church.

Figure 8.5 Tracking the Perception of Growth in Church Favor Among Non-churchgoers.

Growth in Favor
 In your view (name of church) is more favorably regarded

within this community than last year

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
Given: once per year  Given to:

·  Community officials/leaders

·  School and business leaders

·  Local opinion makers

 

Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred.

 

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 4. Measure a church’s growth in conversions too.

For our fourth measurement we will measure conversions. Though we have seen that conversion is difficult to track, it can still be a helpful measurement when evaluated in light of the above metrics: growth in maturity, growth in unity and growth in favor among the community. In addition, Luke tracks conversion as we see from an abbreviated record from the book of Acts:[xx]

  • “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41
  • “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47b
  • “But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:4
  • “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Acts 5:14
  • “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

In Luke’s narrative we see that conversion was taking place, and that he was tracking it. Thom Rainer summarizes, “Luke writes Acts in rapid-fire sequences, demonstrating that believers were persistently active in prayer, evangelism, and service.”[xxi] Punctuating this rapid-fire account is Luke’s repeated emphasis upon conversions taking place at the mystical intersection of God’s will and human choice. As we noted earlier, because of God’s involvement counting conversion is like counting the wind (John 3:8,). But, Luke still tracks it. Yet, because of God’s considerable involvement, outcomes of conversion may be less tied to the leader’s skill. Thus, we should count “growth in conversion” for it is a valid metric to signify God’s movement. And though conversion is the apex of one’s spiritual journey before eternity, we must always remind ourselves that this number is less indicative of effective leadership and more indicative of God’s sovereign workings in the mission Dei.

The cross in ORGANIX reminds us that conversion is the heart God’s missio Dei.

Though evaluating leadership by counting conversion is difficult because of the supernatural nature of conversion, it is also problematical to underemphasize conversion. Conversion is the penultimate experience that God wants all his offspring to experience. The Scriptures emphasize:

  • “And he (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 18:3
  • “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… you must be born again.” John 3:3, 7
  • “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19
  • “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Thus, the X in ORGANIX has at its heart the icon of a cross. The numbers in each quadrant stand for four valid types of measurement derived from Acts 2:42-47. Yet, the X in the center[xxii] reminds us that Christ’s death and resurrection has offered humanity the prospect of conversion. And this conversion, as a turning from trust in self to trust in God,[xxiii] is central to God’s mission, the missio Dei. God wants his offspring to go in the opposite direction, reunite with him in his mission and lovingly join others on the way back to a relationship with him.

Moving Toward Millennial Leadership: Questions for Personal Reflection and/or Group Discussion

The following questions are for personal reflection but can also be utilized in a group setting.

  1. For personal & group reflection: Create an Organix Leadership Journal by …
  • Selecting two (2) items from each box,
  • Writing in it what you will begin to do over the next 30 days to move toward millennial leadership in these two areas.
 

Millennial Leadership

 

 

Measurement

1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

 

1.a. Count up all of your small groups.

 

 

1.b. Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3).

 

 

2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

 

2.a. Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4)

 

 

2.b. Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership.

 

 

3. . Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 

3.a. Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5).

 

 

3.b. Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency.

 

4 . Measure a church’s growth in conversations too.

 

 

 

  1. For group refection:
  • Share your responses to the chart above with your group (omitting answers/plans that are overly personal).
  • Take notes in your Organix Leadership Journal on the following:
    1. Does your group agree or disagree with your assessments and plans?
    2. What input did they give you regarding moving toward millennial leadership?
  • Then rewrite your plans in your journal utilizing their input.
  1. For Personal and Group Reflection:
  • Revisit your notes in your Organix Leadership Journal every month for six months. Ask yourself:
    1. Are there areas where I am making progress? If so, describe them.
    2. Are there areas where I am still weak? What will I do to address this?
  • At the end of six months reread the chapter and update your plans.

 

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Footnotes:

[i] Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Arn, Ten Steps for Church Growth (New York: Harper and Row., 1977), p. 3.

[ii] There are various types of conversion, such as secular conversion (e.g. when a drug addict is transformed to a drug-free lifestyle) or religious conversations (e.g. when a Sikh converts to Hinduism). Richard Peace gives a good overview of these kinds of conversion and the relevant literature in Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), pp. 7-11. We will limit our discussion to conversion to a Christian worldview as defined by Peace.

[iii] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, 1902), 114.

[iv] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), p. 4.

[v] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press 2002), p. 5.

[vi] The modern inclination to count conversions, while insightful to the wind of the Spirit, may include too many divine and unperceived factors, making measuring it as an indicator of leadership is deficient.

[vii] This is not to say there is not something, like a supernatural and indescribable “it,” that people seek to encounter in a church. Craig Groechel in his book, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), describes “it” not as a trendiness but as a profound encounter with the supernatural.

[viii] Luke’s emphasis is jarring, for most secular writers at the time reveled in the scale of the followers, and not upon new passions for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

[ix] The four types of church growth described by Luke may be divinely inspirited metrics or simply part of a biblical narrative. Yet, they suggest relevant and helpful measurement of tools.

[x] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 716-718.

[xi] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 406.

[xii] The most prevalent historical examples of communal living would be the monastic movements.

[xiii] Everett F. Harrison, ACTS: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 66.

[xiv] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 485

[xv] Some may wish to measure attendance in all-church worship celebrations in lieu of small groups. This may yield a less reliable result, since in a large worship gathering it is easier to attend without a steadfast striving for goals of the apostles’ teaching, etc. In addition, it is harder to attend a small group setting without this commitment since in a small group accountably is stronger.

[xvi] For examples of prayer triplets, neighborhood prayers centers, prayer covenants and prayer chapels see Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), pp. 230-237.

[xvii] If your church has organized and regular fellowship groups (e.g. sport teams, hobby groups, etc.) and/or your church has regular times where congregants dine together (recurring evening dinners/lunches, a “dinners of eight” program, etc.) then these groups can be included in your assessments. The key is for each church to include groups that have as a goal the development of spiritual maturity.

[xviii] Church attendance is valid to track here, since the pivotal number is the percentage of church attendees who are involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups.

[xix] Growth in unity and growth in community favor are based upon perceptions. Yet, subjective scales have been proven to be valid and reliable, see Rensis A. Likert, “A Technique for Measurement of Attitudes” in R. S. Woodworth, Archives of Psychology (New York: The Science Press , 1932), vol. 22, no. 140, p. 55.

[xx] Further examples include Acts 9:42; 11:24; 13:43, 48-49; 17:12; and 19:18-20.

[xxi] Thom S. Rainer, Church Growth and Evangelism in the Book of Acts, Criswell Theological Review 5.1 (Dallas, TX: Criswell College, 1990), p. 67.

[xxii] The cross at the center of these four measurements also reminds us that progress is God’s doing and that we only participate in his missio Dei.

[xxiii] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 301.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

EVALUATION & A List of Church Growth/Health Measurements (metrics) from My Books

AN OVERVIEW of MEASUREMENT METRICS: In four of my books I have updated and modified a church measurement tool.  You will find a chapter on measurement in each of these books:

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

I explain that church growth involves four types of congregational growth.  It is a seriously incorrect assumption to assume church growth is all about numbers.  It is only 1/4 about numbers and 3/4 about the other types of growth mentioned in Acts 2:42-47.  In the New Testament we find…

> Maturation Growth, i.e. growth in maturity,Acts 2:42-43.
> Growth in Unity: Acts 2:44-46.
> Growth in Favor, i.e. among non-Christians, Acts 2:47a.
> Growth in number of salvations, i.e. which God does according to this verse, Acts 2:47b.

For more see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

ASSESSMENT & Measurement: So What’s The Difference? Everything!

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/16/15.

An interview in “Christianity Today” with management researcher Jim Collins started me thinking about how some things cannot be measured, but they can be assessed.  I often direct my students to this article to help them create assessable evaluations for their final papers,

Jim Collins said that a problem today with non-profits is, “…being unclear about your goals.… Your goals don’t have to be quantifiable, but they do have to be describable. Some leaders try to insist, ‘The only acceptable goals are measurable,’ but that’s actually an undisciplined statement. Lots of goals—beauty, quality, life change, love—are worthy but not quantifiable. But you do have to be able to tell if you’re making progress. For a church, a goal might be: Young people bring other young people here unprompted. Do they talk about the church with their friends? You may not be able to measure that, but you can assess it.”

I think Collins is on to something here.

He is saying that while some things like “growth in maturity” (Acts 2:42) are not measurable, they can to be “assessed” or “described.”  Measurement means we can put a precise number to something.  I think we all agree that no one, except God, can put a precise measurement on a person’s “level of spiritual maturity.”

But, I think we would all agree that we can “assess” or “describe” progress of “growth of maturity” if a church is increasingly more passionate about “the apostles’ teaching (bible-study) and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Thus, “assessing” growth in maturity is exactly what we are trying to do by measuring the growth in percentages of the congregation involved in Bible-focused groups.  This measurement I call the Composite Maturation Number (A House Divided, p. 209), and it is an “assessment” of the goal of growing a church in maturity.  Thus, we are not measuring precisely “growth in maturity,” but we are assessing progress toward it.

I hope you see that what we are using are “assessments” of unmeasurable goals of maturity, unity and favor.  But, these assessments can, as Jim Collins says, “tell if you’re making progress.”

My hope is that through such assessments all of you are increasingly aware if “you’re making progress.”

NOTE: In the following books I have created and updated church measurement tools that measure four types of church growth, following Luke’s pattern in Acts 2:42-47.  For more info see these chapters or “search” for keywords such as “maturation” in this wiki.

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chaper 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

EVALUATION & Websites for Tracking Ministry Objectives

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/2/15.

I’ve asked my students to help me create a list of helpful websites or software programs that can help track the numbers in a church or ministry.  Such tools can be especially helpful if they let you track participation in small groups as a percentage of overall attendance (this would allow you to track “maturation growth” or what is also called “growth in maturity” Acts 2:42)

Below are a few sites that can help with data gathering. They will probably invigorate tactical leaders (those who lead by numerical analysis) and will make life easier for strategic leaders (those who lead by vision) and operational leaders (those who lead by relationships).(1)

Automated Church Systems:  http://www.acstechnologies.com

Life Church in Edmond, OK http://www.churchmetrics.com (This church you may remember was an example of a church with healthy growth which I profiled in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation (2004).

More to come …

Footnotes:
(1) If you can’t remember the distinctions between Strategic-Tactical-Operational leadership see Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change in Your Church (The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 31-46).  You can also take a test to discover your leadership traits on pp. 46-47 of the book or click here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/leadership-3-types-strategic-tactical-operational-freedownload-changereactionbook/

MEASUREMENT & To Measure of Not to Measure?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/27/15.

Vernon Grounds’ warned about the “bitch goddess of success” (his words, not mine) stating, “It is worshipping [sic] at the shrine of sanctified (or unsanctified) statistics…”  I agree, to a degree.

But, simply because of a potential for abuse we must not ignore measurement, for the Biblical authors did not do so.  Read the full quote by this former president and chancellor of Denver Seminary, followed by my suggestions for a biblical theology of measurement.

“Worldly success is success judged without reference to God or eternity.  Spiritual success is judged by God, success from the perspective of eternity, success without reference to the worlds evaluation. . . . The church has allowed the world to impose on Christian service standards of success which are utterly non-biblical; and when I talk of the church in this context I mean American evangelicalism. . . . the right kind of thinking plus the right programming and motivating plus the right battery of techniques will change any failure into shining success. . . . I am honestly afraid that American evangelicalism is guilty of idolatry.  It is bowing down, if I may borrow a biting phrase from philosopher William James, before the bitch goddess of success.  It is worshipping [sic] at the shrine of sanctified (or unsanctified) statistics. . . . As disciples of Jesus Christ, too many of us are sinfully concerned about size–the size of sanctuaries, the size of salaries, the size of Sunday Schools.  Too many of us are sinfully preoccupied with statistics about budgets and buildings and buses and baptisms.  I say it bluntly: too many of us American evangelicals are worshipping [sic] the bitch goddess of success.” Grounds, F. (1986). “Faith for failure: A meditation on motivation for ministry.” Theological Students Fellowship Bulletin, Mar/Apr, 4.

I have three thoughts.

First, this seems reactionary rather than radical.  To me at least the tenor seems to be a complaint against measurement, while measurement is used remarkably often in the Bible.

Secondly, he is warning about our church preoccupation with size and not quality.  I have written extensively (see these postings) that measuring size is a poor indicator of health and that Acts 2:42-47 gives us Luke’s areas for measurement which were:

  • Measure spiritual maturity (growth in maturation)
  • Measure unity in Christ (growth in unity)
  • Measure service to the community (growth in favor among the community)
  • And finally measure salvations, a metric which God sovereignly grows, for as Luke said, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (see these postings).

Thirdly, here is a short excerpt from A House Divided (Abingdon Press) where Kent Hunter and I look at the scriptures to answer the question: “Is Counting Biblical”  It might throw some Biblical light on the issue.

—-

Is Counting Biblical?  (a sidebar)

Few principles have garnered as much controversy as the principle of measuring numerical growth.  However, missiologist and dean of the Church Growth Movement Donald McGavran states that “the Church is made up of countable people and there is nothing particularly spiritual in not counting them.  Men use the numerical approach in all worthwhile human endeavor.”

But some have argued that there is something spiritual about “not counting.”  They would point to God’s displeasure with King David for ordering a census of the people in 1 Chronicles 21:1 – 30.  However, 1 Chronicles 21:1 reveals that it was Satan who inspired David to conduct this counting of his troops.  Even against the counsel of his commander Joab, who discerned David’s inappropriate motivation, David conducts the census.  David’s motivation for the census was to revel in the strength of his army.  But God wanted David to put his trust in God’s protection, rather than the size of his forces.  Hence, wrong motivation and wrong instigation led to an inappropriate counting.

Elsewhere in the Bible, numberings are conducted for meaningful reasons with helpful results.  In Numbers 1:2 and 26:2 God commands numberings of all Israel along with every segment of each tribe before and after the desert wanderings.  In the Gospel accounts we witness accurate countings of Jesus’ team of disciples, and in Luke 10:1 – 24 we see a company of 72 disciples sent out two by two.  In the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3 – 7, only by counting the sheep does the shepherd become aware that one is missing from the fold.  If counting those we are entrusted were odious to Jesus, certainly he would eliminate such imagery from his teaching.  And in Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4; Luke records the growth of the church by a careful record of its numerical increase.  McGavran concludes “on biblical grounds one has to affirm that devout use of the numerical approach is in accord with God’s wishes.  On the practical grounds, it is as necessary in congregations and denominations as honest financial dealing.”

EVALUATION & One way to measure quality

by Jackson Wu, nd. (excerpted from a more comprehensive article on evaluation, linked below).

What about quality?

How does Scripture primarily describe Spiritual fruit? In Gal 5:22–23, Paul writes,

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Many mission organizations track statistics regarding the number of churches and professions of faith. How many have a way of recording and celebrating fruitfulness as Paul describes it?

We might think of “quality” fruitfulness in terms of five goals.

1. Clarity (head)

Are we giving a clear witness that is both biblically faithful and culturally meaningful?

2. Conviction (heart)

We want those we serve to have changed hearts. Yet, this is NOT something we can control.

It is a miraculous work of the Spirit. For this reason, we should be careful about how much we push “decisions” as the primary metric for ministry success. How can we be held accountable for something outside our control?

3. Character (head)

We want believers to live godly lives.

4. Calling (mission)

We want believers to serve God in ministry to the world. God’s people are called to join His mission.

5. Community (church)

Ministry to and through individuals is not the primary goal. We cannot claim effectiveness if we are not aiming to build up the Church. Christian faith is inherently communal…

Read more at … http://jacksonwu.org/2015/07/08/is-our-ministry-effective/

CHURCH GROWTH & Defining It + 4 Ways to Measure It #HouseDividedBook

by Bob Whitesel, 10/20/14

Church growth.  Some people distain the term, wrongly believing it is all about numbers. Such a perspective belies a naïve understanding of the real focus of the Church Growth Movement. You can gain a perspective on four types of church growth by looking at Acts 2:42-47 (quoted in the middle of this article).

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Donald R. McGavran, missiologist and father of the Church Growth Movement, was sensitive to this misconception and in his later years was trying to find an alternative to this appellation. He was working with the idea of re-labeling church growth as “effective evangelism,” for effectiveness in evangelism is something we sorely need, and for which most churches have few tools to effectively measure. But God called Dr. McGavran home before he should codify an alternative name. And thus, in at least this present authors’ viewpoint, God may have been voting in favor of the more controversial, yet accurate appellation: church growth.

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However, to ensure in your personal and professional ministry that church growth does not get an unwarranted and inappropriate designation; remind yourself that church growth as seen in the Book of Acts incorporated the following four foundational types of growth (adapted from Whitesel and Hunter, 2001):

Acts 2:42-47They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

  • Growing in Maturity (Acts 2:42, 43). Immediately after the Holy Spirit’s visitation at Pentecost, the young church drew together in a time of maturation growth. The significance of its members’ devotion to teaching and fellowship, combined with the attesting miracles, testifies to a congregation maturing in its understanding and practice of spiritual principles.
  • Growing in unity. (Acts 2:44 – 47a). The early church drew together in a unity and harmony that led to selfless acts of inter-reliance. Though pooling their money was not the norm for all or even most New Testament churches, unity and interdependence is certainly a growth goal of all Christian communities. Unity and harmony create an atmosphere of mutual dependence and reciprocity, that bonds participants to the community and their Lord.
  • Growing in favor. “…and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47b). Church growth includes growth in testimony and respect among the unchurched people of the community. The result can be openness to the Good News. Too often however, an adversarial role develops between the church and the community. In reality, the role should be one of mutual respect, appreciation and communication. When a church is meeting the felt needs of the community, the church will receive the community’s gratitude and acknowledgement. This gratitude then becomes a powerful conduit through which the Good News flows into a community.
  • Growing in numbers. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” ( 47c). The aftermath of the first three types of church growth is the last; growth in numerical size.