A Table of Weights and Measures

26 03 2008

Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.
Peter Drucker

Someone wise once told me that what we measure betrays our true priorities. The same can probably be said of the ways we choose to invest our time.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus and the way people have been trying for years to domesticate him, and one of the methods recently has been to stuff his expansive and controversial person into a suit and tie and place him in a board room. The problem, of course, is that Jesus would not make a very good CEO of a corporation – not if that corporation wanted to be profitable, anyway. Or to put it another way, the Jesus revealed in the gospels seems to possess brilliant strategy, but he employs that strategy with a set of priorities that are not at all in keeping with conventional business practices. Turning the other cheek, giving your shirt to the person who demands your coat, carrying the burden for two miles when you’re only required to carry for one, loving your enemies – simply put, that’s no way to get ahead in a free market economy.

Jesus chose a ragtag group of dim-witted, blue collar hacks as his students. He said things that literally sent crowds walking in the opposite direction. His closest friends and family either disowned him or thought he was nuts. Who wants to buy stock in this kind of leader?

The strange thing is, 2000 or so years later, a whole bunch of businesses hang Roman crosses on their buildings and do exactly the opposite: selling indulgences in the form of self-improvement techniques or the promise of heaven-by-formula as churches vie for market share among people who self-identify as Christian.

I don’t think we do this out of disobedience to God, quite the opposite: the vast majority of churches that have employed a free market business model have done so out of pure motives: to grow the church and extend its’ influence in the world. The question I would like to ask is, at what cost have we adopted these practices? What do we lose in terms of our unique purpose and commissioning from Jesus when we measure our success solely in terms of attendance and tithing indexes?

What if we started measuring our significance through a different lens? What if we stopped counting the people who sit through our sermons, and instead started counting the ways our communities can respond to those sermons in meaningful service to their neighbors? What if we stopped setting goals for tithe dollars coming into the church bank account, and instead started helping our communities set goals to live a lifestyle of fiscal responsibility and generosity?

What if we stopped measuring our churches and started measuring our world? How would we see things differently?




One response

2 04 2008
Scott Olson

You make an excellent argument regarding the measures we use to define success. I have noticed that once an outcome measure is defined in order to monitor performance and effectiveness we begin to serve that outcome measure, whether it is number of altar call responses, attendance numbers, tithe amounts, or baptism counts. We shape our ministry to see those outcomes improved while neglecting the unmeasured, or worse the unmeasurable.

What if these outcome measures were balanced with community crime, poverty, homicide, suicide, abortion, and religious affiliation rates? What if after 5 years the ministry of Christians in a community meant there were fewer homeless (and not because we shipped them to the next town) or fewer children in foster or group homes (because they didn’t have to be taken from their parents or found adoptive homes)? Looking outside the objective measures within the walls of the church could dramatically transform our perspective and our communities.

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