Summary: God expects His churches to be successful, but how is our success measured?
God’s Glorious Church
How Do We Measure Our Success?
Woodlawn Baptist Church
February 20, 2005
As we enter into this portion of our services this morning, I want to once again welcome each of you and tell you that it is good to be here in the Lord’s house with you. If you are a guest, or have not been able to attend for the last few weeks, I want you to know that I have begun to preach a series of messages that are going to deal with the Lord’s churches and various issues as they relate to church life. Last week I told you that because man in his natural condition does not know God and in fact has no desire to know God, it is of utmost importance that our churches be in tune with why the Lord has left us here.
We are living in a day when the importance of the local church is not recognized by its own members. It is understandable that those outside of a church would not see the importance, but it is unacceptable for God’s own people not to recognize it. He has chosen this institution as the means whereby He is going to redeem mankind – and He has called you to be a part of that redemptive process. He has called on you and me to work together to reach people in the depths of their lostness, to lead them to Christ, to teach them to follow Him, to teach them His Word and to minister to them and mentor them as they grow and mature and join in the work with us!
Now, one of the wonderful things I believe to be true is that there are many of you who do know and do understand the importance of what we’re doing. In recent weeks we’ve been talking about it in terms of having a kingdom focus. We’ve said that in the average church 10% of the people do 90% of the work, but that doesn’t hold true here. Many of you are engaged in places of service, in places of ministry, doing what God has led you to do as we reach out and teach and train. Some teach, some clean, some visit, some drive the bus, and the list would go on. Our goal is to see every member actively engaged in some ministry, participating in some Bible study, attending most of the services, and since we know we’re not there yet, there is much work to be done.
I say all of that to lead up to the question I am asking in our message today: how do we measure our success as a church? If our mission is to reach the lost, lead them to Christ and help them to move into a place of ministry, then how do we measure our success in doing it? As we consider that thought this morning, there are three main ideas I intend to share with you. First, what difference does it make? Second, I want to point out how our success will not be measured, then last of all how it will be measured.
What’s All The Fuss About?
I’m going to speculate for just a moment that every one of you in this room could count on one hand the number of times you’ve heard a sermon about how to measure the success of a church. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that some of you have never heard it talked about, and most have never seriously even thought about it. After all, we’re not taught or trained to think in terms of whether we’re successful as a church or not. As I’ve previously said, we usually just get caught up in “doing church” and the closest we get to thinking about being successful is in terms of Sunday School attendance. If we’re averaging 85 and one Sunday we have 90, then we had a good Sunday. If we only had 70, then we weren’t very successful that day.
It wasn’t until the last 25 years or so that much began to be written on the subject of church growth, and in the last 15 years the market has boomed with books and articles that deal with the subject. But here’s what has happened with all the writing – when you talk about growing churches, you necessarily have to deal with churches that are not growing, and a church that is not growing would seem to imply a lack of success. Churches that are growing equal success, those that are not do not equal success. Now that’s not my thinking – but that’s how much of what’s been written plays out.
Is it really all that important to think about whether a church is successful or not? I believe it is, but only if you maintain a biblical definition of success. Now, the dictionary defines success as attaining a favorable or desired outcome. That definition of success is fine when you think about specific goals that are set. For example, our goal this year is to save $4200 for the resealing and striping of our parking lots. If we do it before December, then we were successful, and if we don’t then we won’t attain our desired outcome. But applying that definition to a church’s overall ministry won’t work.