Thursday, March 1, 2007

Counting and Discipline

There were two great comments left on my last post on counting people. I wrote that we count people because people matter to God. The first comment talked about measuring spiritual growth. The second comment was about keeping the counting motivation pure.

The first thing I would say is to read Jim Collins book Good to Great and the Social Sectors. What Collins writes is that non-profits, such as the church, cannot measure success the same way a business can. Businesses ultimately measure success based on how much money they make. For the church we still must measure. The measuring becomes much more difficult, so we must do it with greater discipline.

Here is where I believe most churches fail at measuring. It is easy to just count how many people are on a membership roll, how many show up for worship, and how much is given each week. All of these things are very easy to measure. Most churches stop here. They will pronounce their statistics and leave it at that. I posted the statistics for February. But I didn't do it until I posted about a woman who had the opportunity to share her faith at work. I shared in my weekly email to our leadership even more stories similar to this one.

So we count people, but we don't stop there. We have to be disciplined in how we determine success. I have growth indicators that I am tracking for our church that have numbers behind them, but even deeper than that I look behind those numbers at the people they represent. I seek to connect with those people to find out what their story is and where they are in their journey to do life with Jesus in a transformational way.

The way I try to keep counting motivation pure is to always connect the numbers with people. I can be very excited about growing by 23% in the last year, but if I'm not meeting those people and hearing their stories and the stories of the people who are inviting them, then it's just about the numbers. I don't ever want to just be about the numbers. I am all about the people behind the numbers. I want to celebrate people coming into the Kingdom. I want the people of Charter Oak Church to know that the risks they are taking on the people in their circle of influence is worth it.

The increased level of discipline then means that we aren't just counting, but ultimately looking for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth to me is people who are being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity isn't just about praying, but it's about praying when the Spirit says pray. It's about sharing your faith when the Holy Spirit opens an opportunity for a spiritual conversation with someone in your circle of influence. If I just count people, then I won't know the stories behind those people. I love it when I receive an email or a phone call from someone who "just has to tell me what just happened" when they were faithful to what God was prompting them to do.


Corben said...

Good post. I understand what you are saying. Accountability needs to be in place because numbers can be a temptation to take away from relationships, become business oriented, become prideful, etc....

Even if we believe ideally we are not affected by sin when looking at numbers there is always that possibility and/or temptation.

As you said before, People really do matter.

Matt said...

Thanks for your comments, Chris...It's really good stuff to think about!

Greg Cox said...

You could say so many things about Collins book, and not even touch the surface. I can understand the hesitance for some to mention numbers, but you are right - we have to measure something. As he mentions, good churches fail to become great, because they are comfortable being good.

Strive for the better things, brother. Boast in the Lord, and celebrate what God is doing

Chris Whitehead said...


What would happen if churches started to risk to become great?

I think it would be a risk because most don't even want to talk about what that would look like or how that would be lived out.

A denominational leader was at our church this past weekend and we were told that we "do the strangest things here." What were we doing? Baptisms by immersion.

Take the risk - go for Jesus, be the leader of a great church, I know God wants to use you in a mighty way. It's all about obedience to the Way.