As a church planter or a pastor, when will you know you have succeeded? What is the goal? Where is the finish line? In the business world, you fight for market share and profit. When you are in the top three in your market and you are dropping loads of cash to the bottom line, you know you are running a successful business. There are certainly other measures, but those two ring the bell almost every time. Why don’t we have similar measures in church?
The default measure of success for a lot of us as leaders, whether we admit it or not, is butts in seats. If attendance this week is bigger than last week or last month or last year, then we are winning; if the arrow points down, then we are losing. So the goal is to get more butts in more seats, whatever it takes. We put up billboards, we send out flyers, we hype every weekend as the best weekend ever; anything to draw a crowd. We don’t worry too much about whose seats those butts were in last weekend, as long as we can get them back in our seats next week.
Some of us are a little less crass and a little more self-righteous in measuring success. All we care about are souls in the Kingdom, so we measure salvations. But how do we measure salvation? The most common standards are baptisms and hands raised in response to an appeal. The focus then becomes how to get hands up and hair wet, no matter what it takes. Now we’re on the same train as the butts-in-seaters.
Which brings us to the most pious crowd of all. We are not concerned about attendance or emotional response; we count disciples. And how do we count disciples? By activity, of course. How many people lead groups? How many people complete classes? How many people participate in outreach projects? Unfortunately, as the WCA Reveal study showed, activity does not always equal discipleship. We are measuring, but are we successful?
When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 for his definition of success (“What is most important?”), he didn’t mention weekend attendance, salvations or even discipleship. He gave two very clear criteria by which all success should be measured:
- Do you love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength?
- Do you love your neighbor as yourself?
This doesn’t preclude measuring attendance, salvation and discipleship; we measure what is important. But when we sit down at the end of the day, only our love for God and our love for our neighbor should be considered. What is success as a church planter or a pastor? It is measured in how we love. So, are you successful?