A friend of mine from college, Clint Clifton, is a church planter in northern Virginia. Clint is currently out of the country in Indonesia working with an Unreached People Group. While he is gone, he has asked a number of his friends to provide guest posts on his blog. The only catch is that we had to write on one of a few selected topics and it had to be fairly short. I’ll be honest that I had to rewrite the doggone thing a couple of times because I would have preferred to use a lot more space to adequately describe what I was trying to write about, none-the-less I finally got it reduced quite a bit and hopefully is close to the size he wanted it. Anyway, I thought I would reprint it here in case you might be interested.
Buildings, Budgets & Baptisms. If I was to look out across the Evangelical landscape, there are a number of ministry problems I see that concern me, but one of the greatest is our practice of measuring success by examining Buildings, Budgets & Baptisms. Paul seemed to point us in the right direction in Colossians 1:28-29 when he told us that we should endeavor to “present every man perfect in Christ”. So, if that’s an example of a biblical success barometer, how come weseldom see that used? I’d like to try and posit a few possible answers.
- Disciple making is too difficult to quantify. Let’s be honest, it is not that easy to identify an authentic disciple. We have all known people who appeared to be walking with Christ and who, at some point down the road, fall off the wagon and walk away from their supposed faith. So who is to say that what we view as a disciple is not really another failed follower ready to bolt? Beyond that, disciple-making does not feature an easily recognized “experience” that can be recorded and bragged about at denominational meetings and conferences. No, we would much rather deal with something easy to fit into a cute little spreadsheet. Besides, if you ever really try to measure your effectiveness at making disciples you are liable to get ripped apart. Just ask Bill Hybels.
- The three “B’s” are much more controllable than making disciples. Now, one could argue that you cannot really control baptisms, but any of us who has any oratorical skill at all knows how easy it is to pull on the emotions and create decisions which lead to baptisms. No, the truth is we like the three “B’s” because we can have a lot of say in whether they happen or not. They are controllable, and we like things we can control.
- Disciplemaking takes too much time. If we are truthful about it, we like quick results. In our microwave culture, we are not inclined to invest the time necessary to really make disciples. Unfortunately Christ’s pattern is one of significant time investment. Making disciples may have fit Christ’s modus operandi, but we would prefer something that we can make happen a bit faster.
So, what should we do? Should we give up on the three “B’s”? I would argue, no. In fact, I lead a church that is almost rabid as we attempt to measure the three “B’s” as well as a plethora of other characteristics about our church. No, I do not think we need to avoid those areas. I do think, however, that we need to be honest and recognize that those areas, while important, are not necessarily the best barometers of success. Instead we need to refocus on fostering authentic disciples. We need to prize those that grow in their relationship with Christ. We need to trumpet, from the pulpit, the value of discipleship and all that it entails.
My church likes to say that our purpose for existing is, “Helping those who are disconnected from God, to become committed followers of Jesus Christ.” It is probably time that churches start trying to measure our ability to complete that purpose rather than simply offering a bank statement, an architect’s bill or a denominational report card as a symbol of our success.
Micah Fries is the Senior Pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. Micah has served as a Youth Pastor, International Missionary and Senior Pastor for 10 years. Micah is married to Tracy and they have two daughters, Sarah Grace and Kessed Noel. Micah and Clint have known each other since their days in college together at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida. You can read more of Micah’s writings at micahfries.com.