I came across this article from Neue Magazine this morning, and I wanted to pass it along. As a church, we are always asking the question of how we measure our effectiveness. Is it the number of people we have in pews on Sunday morning? Is it the percentage of growth we have experienced in the past year? Is it the number of people we interact with out in the community? Certainly those are things that we have tried to use to measure effectiveness, but as Jo Saxton suggests, “While it’s natural to define success in numerical terms, we must also make sure we’re counting the right things.”
So what are the right things we should be counting? Saxton suggests that what we need to be counting are the number of disciples who are then going out and making more disciples. In this way, the numbers are not just about how many people show up on any given Sunday, the numbers are about the people who are allowing their lives to be formed and transformed through the process of being discipled, who consequently turn around to become leaders themselves in discipling others. She writes,
The Body of Christ today is innovative and creative, overflowing with talent, gifts, vision and missional strategies to impact our communities. Yet what my friend was driving at was that for all our resources, events and ideas, we struggle to produce (or, if we’re honest, to be) disciples with the kind of transformed lives and missional lifestyle we see in the men and women of the early church.
We might not be horrible at getting people in the door, in inviting people into the community of faith, but then how deep are we inviting people to go? How deep are we ourselves going? Do we stop once they or we get in the door? Saxton writes again,
Jesus discipled people using an appropriate combination of invitation and challenge. He invited people into a close relationship with Him. They ate, traveled and adventured together; He affirmed and encouraged them, and reassured them in tough times. Alongside this, Jesus didn’t hesitate to challenge people to accept the responsibilities of discipleship, to take responsibility for their character, for their attitudes, their actions, to embrace their calling. Using invitation and challenge, Jesus created a discipling culture where people could learn to imitate His priorities: a close relationship with the Father, authentic relationships with believers and a relationship with the world around Him.
It’s good food for thought. You can read the whole article here, but I want to leave you with the questions that Saxton says we should be asking:
Are we counting what counted most to Jesus: the number of disciple-making disciples engaged in the mission of God?
How many people are we discipling?
How many people in our churches/ministries are making disciples who make disciples?
Those are the numbers that matter.