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.
Here is a problem I’ve noticed. It’s cool to be “missional”. You might not know the term, but trust me it’s the new “cool term”. Just look at how many books are on the topic. Just look at how many Christian workshops there are about it. Just look at how often people talk about it…or blog about it (yes I know I’m blogging about it and have many times before).
Now I’m not against the missional movement at all. I’ve led workshops on it, I’ve created resources for it, and I wrote my thesis on it. What I’m worried is that we tend to “consume missional-ness” rather than practicing being missional. So we go to trainings, read books, buy more books, go to another training, and leave our “old churches” to do something cool and new. And in the end rather than being missional, we end up being consumeristic and “consuming mission”.
Jason Clark puts it this way:
“This is how we consume church. We read book on missional church, attend missional events, leave existing churches to be revolutionary, and at the end of the day we end up ‘consuming’ mission rather than doing the dirty work of bringing about a concrete church and mission”.
And the truth is it’s easier to consume church, rather than truly being missional and committing to a location for a long-term. It’s easier to read a book, go to a training, and start something new rather than investing, planting yourself, and saying, “God use me here.”
I am in no way against new things, or the church moving into the community. This needs to happen. I just want to make sure the motives are right for why it’s happening. Because the truth is this: it’s too easy to jump to the new cool thing, it’s hard to do the faithful thing. And I believe being faithful to God means being missional. It’s just that it’s so easy to try to “be missional” not from a desire of faithfulness, but a desire of rejection and consumerism.
I think Jason Clark’s question is a good one for all of us to think about, “are we ‘consuming mission’ rather than doing the dirty work of bringing about a concrete church and mission”
- Are we responding faithfully to God’s call to move out into the neighborhood, or just tired of the neighborhood we find ourselves in?
- Are we launching something new because God is calling us to, or because we’re just bored and frustrated with our current place?
- Are we learning about being missional to practice it, or to critique others who aren’t doing it?
I just think Jason Clarke’s point is wise. Are we consuming mission, or living out God’s mission? Because especially in being missional, motives matter.