Christianity Today is hosting an article written by Skye Jethani, which reveals some interesting information as to how we are evaluating our “success” in the church.
He quotes from a popular Christian leadership book, from a chapter entitled, “Bigger is Better.” The authors say, “A church should always be bigger than it was. It should be constantly growing.” Given this mindsetl, Jethani argues, church leaders are placed under an inordinate amount of pressure. If the church grows, the leader is praised. If the church doesn’t grow, the leader is blamed and probably terminated.
Now on the one hand, part of the above rationale makes sense. Chruch leaders should want the church to grow. We believe that that the gospel is inherently contagious. It is truth for the world. However, as Jethani cleverly argues, our ‘success’ can not adequately be determined by growth.
He cites the example of Moses from Numbers 20. I found his insights to be dead-on, so I’ll quote him.
Or consider one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament. In Numbers 20, Moses performs a miracle by drawing water from a rock to nourish the Israelites. By any human measure Moses’ ministry was a success. It was God-empowered (he performed a miracle), and it was relevant (the people were thirsty). If Moses lived today, we’d all be reading his ministry book titled, “How to Draw Water from Rocks: Effective Strategies to Refresh Arid Churches.” There was just one problem—Moses’ effective ministry was rejected by God. Moses had disobeyed the Lord’s command by striking the rock rather than speaking to it. For this sin he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. It turns out God performed a miracle in spite of Moses, not because of him.
The irony of the story is that the people were satisfied, but satisfaction was achieved at the cost of disobedience. Thus, we are forced to ask the question, are some churches growing in spite of some leaders rather than because of them? Is God working miracles in the lives of people in spite of our creative programs, revamped worship styles, and modern light shows?
What do you think? What criteria do we use to measure success in the church?