Does Life Flourish Around Your Church?

Plattsville_Missionary_ChurchI had the unique opportunity with working with two different churches outside of my denomination, and normal connections in the past month. Both times working with the church was the first time I’d encountered or met them. But the two encounters couldn’t be more difficult.

The first was difficult, at times troubling, and it was draining. The second church was gracious, open, and quite life-giving.

What I noticed was this. Life around the second church seemed to flourish, whereas,  life seemed to wilt around the first.

And of course, there could be a whole host of reasons why at this particular time one church seemed more life-giving than the other. Bad days, imperfections, and mistakes happen to us all.

So I’m not judging either church, but instead thinking about how we should judge or evaluate churches.

Traditionally churches measure budgets, buildings, or numbers. What if instead we started measuring the flourishing of life around the church?

Isn’t that a better metric? A truer metric?

Jesus says he will bring life. So it seems to me that if Jesus is being followed deeply, truly, and freely – life should flourish.

I think it’s a good question to ask about the churches we lead, participate in, or are a part of. I also think it’s a great question for us to ask personally, as people who are the church. Is life flourishing around us? Do our neighbors feel like we are a drain, or a welcome part of their lives? Is Jesus so active in our lives, that life seems to spring around us?

The point is simple: life flourished around Jesus, and it should flourish around his followers as well. It’s not always easy, but it is something to strive for. Something I know I want to strive for in my life and in my church. What about you?

Evaluating Church

1441915_68829979Let’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.