Let’s be honest, we evaluate everything. We do, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. The trouble is rarely do we evaluate what we are evaluating. Let me explain, as this is particularly problematic with church.
We do evaluate church, and it happens all the time, and I know you do it too. On the ride home you talk about how the sermon was maybe good or flat. You talk about the worship and whether it was anointed or off. We evaluate and measure things.
My contention is not with evaluating the church, it’s with what we evaluate the church by. I would say that in the pastor world the standard three things we evaluate the church on is this: budget, buildings, or attendance. Is our budget growing? Are our facilities top notice? Is our attendance growing? And then we start evaluating how we are doing by our programs (i.e. preaching, worship, youth min. etc)
And none of these things are intrinsically bad. We need to be thinking through our budgets, buildings, people, and programs – but these are not the best criteria to evaluate the church. These are not the best criteria to make sure that our church and communities are pointed in the right direction. Because hear me clearly, what the world needs is not bigger budgets, better buildings, more churchgoers, or cooler programs. What the world needs is more devoted followers of Jesus. We need more disciples.
Neil Cole writes this:
Ultimately, each church will be evaluated by only one thing – its disciples. Your church is only as good as her disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs, or property are; if your disciples are passive, needy, consumeristic, and not moving in the direction of radical obedience, your church is not good.
Cole is seeking to take our focus off of the things the church often does (programs, preaching, etc) to the thing the church is called to make – disciples. And I think this is how we need to be looking at our churches. I think these are the kind of questions we need to be asking:
- What kind of disciples are we making, and do they look, live, and love like Jesus.
- Are we doing a better job at that – than last year.
- Are we releasing and raising up disciples and sending them out?
And rather than just using our budgets, buildings, or numbers to evaluate where we are going, what if we ask this simple question: how are we doing at making disciples? Because for the church to be faithful to Jesus, it needs to be faithful to its calling – to make disciples.
And I think if we ask that question it will point us in the right direction. It will help us to be more faithful. It will help us to not get caught up in all the good things around us and miss out on the most important thing – making disciples.
And so it’s a hard question as a pastor to ask, but I think it’s the right one. And I think it’s one that points in the right direction, because it points to Jesus and the church’s calling. And I think that matters.