As church leaders, it’s so easy to get caught up with our measurement for success being rooted in the ABC of church statistics: attendance, buildings, cash.
It’s understandable, as these are tangible metrics against which we can measure the previous years. But while I’m not against their use per se, I’m not sure they serve as a good measure for how well we are doing at fulfilling the great commission.
I wonder whether our measurements of success have inadvertently made us think more about maintenance than mission. I realise that this may well oversimplify the many and varied reasons why we are happy to focus on simply adding to – or even just maintaining – our numbers. But if we’re honest, do we settle for a few conversions here and there and end up satisfied with a ‘good Sunday’?
The fear of losing people to the trendy church in town can cause us to focus on keeping people happy – rather than sending missionaries out into every place with no guarantees of success.
You might vehemently disagree with me, but could I ask you to think about what you give most of your time to? How much of your energy is given to programmes, and what does that reveal?
I believe everything changes when we realise that we were never called to perpetuate a model; we were called to fulfil a mission.
So, what are some of the questions that we might need to ask as church leaders if we are going to move from a maintenance model to a fulfilling the mission model?
I think the first question we have to ask is: am I willing to relinquish control?
As disciples of Jesus we gave up any rights to call the shots in our lives. He gave his all so that we could give him our all. Jesus invites us to be a part of his mission. He is reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:20), and by proclaiming the good news and living lives transformed by Jesus, we get to partner with him.
But am I really willing to lay down my agenda and listen to his? Abundant life in Christ is for those who are willing to relinquish control.
This leads nicely onto the second question I think we need to ask: have I identified where the momentum of the Spirit’s movements are, or am I trying to force my agenda for mission?
If we are listening to and obeying the leading of Jesus in our lives, the most natural thing will be to go with the momentum of the Holy Spirit in mission. Could it be that the burdens and struggles we face are a result of us trying to force something to happen, rather than responding to where God is already working? If we try to force our agenda for mission it will be a great burden, but when we go with what God is already doing there will be great joy, even if it means hard work!
Another good question to ask if you want to move from maintenance to mission is: what do I talk about most in my conversations – the Church or Jesus?
If the answer is Church, why is that? Is it because you know the Church better than you know Jesus?
I find the more we talk with Jesus, the more we are likely to talk about Jesus.
If we’re going to be disciples who talk about Jesus with more confidence, then we have to hang out with him in more meaningful and transforming ways. People want to see the reality of Jesus’ redemptive work, not just hear about it.
If we live with the expectancy that people will respond to the good news of Jesus and his kingdom, it would be helpful to have a way in mind for how we will disciple those people. So the penultimate question is: have you identified a pathway to maturity for those coming to faith?
Once someone comes to faith, how are you going to disciple them? Don’t simply think about which programmes you can slot them into, but think about how you can invite them to be a part of your life and the church family, so that they observe how faith shapes everything in a Christian’s life.
Finally, if you don’t have any meaningful connections with people who are yet followers of Jesus, what can you do to change that?
As you take the opportunity to reflect on these questions, my hope is that they will help you move your church from maintenance mode to an increasingly missional mindset.