Changing Our Metric of Success
It never fails. When two pastors hang out together long enough, one of them is bound to ask the question, “How big is your church?”
There’s no shame in it; honestly, we have been conditioned to measure success through church attendance. I don’t even mind saying it—church attendance is the number one metric of success in the North American church today.
And then 2020 hit… and every pastor in America had to come to grips with the reality that we may not be full back to church for months, if not years. Coronavirus isn’t going away, and most experts agree the church isn’t going back to the way it was (maybe ever).
So, with church not going back to what it was, and Coronavirus not going away, we are all faced answering the same question: What do we do now?
I think the gift of this season is really something that can change the church forever: We now have the opportunity to change the metric of success.
Attractional church might be pivoting before our very eyes and this can be the catalyst for a new and lasting growth model that isn’t dependent on large gatherings. That growth model is disciple making.
Many of the pastors that I talk to wrestle with disciple making because it isn’t large, it isn’t flashy, and it certainly isn’t quick. In some churches, we have even relegated disciple making to a staff member, instead of making it the pillar of the ministry as I would suggest Jesus intended.
And all of that leads us to a bigger question: How do we change decades of trained church culture?
First, I would suggest that the leader has to buy-in. The pastor has to be the lynchpin in the organization, and they need to start by discipling someone. One of the people who discipled me challenged me to tithe my week in disciple making relationships—one on one, with the express intent of spiritual reproduction.
Once the pastor is actively engaged in disciple making, the next step is to get the leadership board bought in to that vision. This is important because the pastor will need time. Jesus spent three years discipling 12, so we can safely assume it will take all of us longer than that! Where many pastors fail is when we don’t define what success looks like for the church. So as one year transitions to the next, the people who are leading beside them are left wondering if what we did this year was a win (or not!)
The next step is developing a common language. Disciple making, discipleship, disciple—each comes with their own connotation and that means the people who are trying to get on board with the new movement may not even agree on what it means.
Developing language develops movement.
The final thing (and probably the most important) that changing the culture requires is time. And this will be the hardest thing for most leaders. We all want the fix that can happen overnight, but changing culture is like turning an aircraft carrier. It is big and slow.
However, just like the aircraft carrier, once you get the culture in the right position, you will have an incredible opportunity to launch the mission off of it. THIS is why this year is so important. Everyone is expecting a change, everyone is becoming conditioned to change, and leaders who are willing, will finally be able to change… And what we need to change is the metric of success.
I love to imagine a world in the future where pastors gather together and instead of asking the question, how big is your church, we are asking the question: How are you making disciples?