Monthly Archives: April 2016

Church Stats

I originally wrote and posted this back in 2012.  I’m not sure I have much to add from my original thoughts.

The other day I read an interesting article from Dave Ferguson on churchleaders.com about tracking the right stats in churches.  His basic take is that tracking just attendance and offering numbers doesn’t really give you a good picture of how a church is actually doing.

He has a good point.

I have often been bothered by this problem.  One the one hand, it seems Jesus is the one who builds His church (Matthew 16:18) and maybe all we need to do is be obedient to His calling.  After all, we’d consider Noah a failure as a modern church leader since, including himself, he had just 8 converts in 120 years of preaching.  We wouldn’t send him out to be a church planter with that record.  Yet the author of Hebrews lists him as a hero of the faith (Hebrews 11:7).  So maybe numbers aren’t all that important.

But on the other hand, the LORD’s last command before His ascension was that we “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).  It seems rather logical to conclude He expects us to have a degree of success in that endeavor.  It further makes sense to keep track of our progress.  From a practical financial matter, it does make sense to keep detailed records of how much and how many.

Dave Ferguson seems to make a valid argument that we need to measure disciples and not just the raw number of people who attend our services (along with the amount of the offerings).  While I agree with his basic premise, I think discipleship is a hard one to measure.

I’ve been part of large churches (over 2000) and very small ones (less than 15).  There are good and bad things I can say about either extreme.  But the concept of determining whether or not the church is successfully making disciples is harder to track.

At this point, I don’t really have a good answer to this.  I am not a pastor and don’t serve on a church board nor am I on a church staff, yet I still think of this problem quite a bit.  I’ve seen too many pastors and church leaders in general be totally consumed with how many people they have coming to their services as compared to the church down the road.  They seem to have such little concern with the spiritual depth of the people coming to their services.

But the other side of the coin is just as bad.  Often, this is a small church that is so concerned with their how well their people kept a set of rules.  They’ll pass judgment on any church larger than themselves claiming those attending are only interested in the “show.”

I must shamefully admit, I’ve been on both sides of this issue.

So what’s your take?  How do you think we need to measure ourselves regarding this commandment from Jesus in Matthew 28.  How do you really know how healthy and obedient your church really is at making disciples? Post your thoughts on this and let me know.

Blessings My Friend.

-jm

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It’s Not A Hot Dog Eating Contest

I ran across this headline the other day.  Bible reading is not a hot dog eating contest and I was curious.  Reading the article, I found I agreed with the author and it is in fact one issue I have with through-the-Bible reading plans.

It’s not that I have problems with people reading the Bible.  People need to read the Bible and sadly, research indicates about only one-third of people attending church rarely read it.  I do however, have issues when it’s treated as a “to-do” list.  Something I race through to check off my list of today’s required activities.  Bible reading isn’t a sprint, it isn’t even a marathon.  It’s a nice slow walk.

hot dogsOur fasted paced society has great difficulty in slowing down.  Within the church, we want services to proceed quickly, flow smoothly from one segment to another and the pastor absolutely can not go beyond his pre-approved time.  Some approach Bible reading  with the same attitude and the idea of spending more time than my 5 minute allotment to “devotions” is disruptive to their spiritual lifestyle.

I’ve ascribed to a theory a few years ago, many years now actually, where I no longer try to read the Bible in an entire year.  I know that sounds sac-religious in evangelical circles but I have found spending time – a long time – in a passage or a going slowly through a book of the Bible of much greater benefit.  It is not unheard of for me to spend months (in my current case – years) in one section or book of the Bible.

Discipline is of course a necessary thing and for that reason I think a Bible reading plan can be helpful.  If you need that sort of thing to encourage you in your reading then by all means do so.  But don’t get all wrapped up in “I have to do this reading thing” with the same attitude you might have when loading the dish washer.  You do because you know you need to and therefore, the sooner you can read your 2-3 chapters a day, the better off you’ll be – you can check that off your list.

You know you’ve begun treating Bible reading like a hot dog eating contest when you miss a day and begin to feel guilty.  So you promise yourself (and God), “I’ll just make it up and read twice as much tomorrow.”

If that is your way of thinking about Bible reading – STOP!  Slow down.  Re-read that passage tomorrow.  Maybe slowly just read one chapter or even just a handful of verses, and see if you can see anything new the LORD maybe trying to show you.  Then, you might want to read the same chapter again tomorrow or the next day.  You do not get “extra points” when you get to Heaven because you successfully raced through your Bible.  God is not going to be disappointed in you because you read the same Bible passage three days in a row.  Trust me on this.

Bible reading is not a hot dog eating contest, seeing how fast you can get through His Word and proudly proclaiming, “I read through the entire Bible in six months!  Go me!”  If that’s you, display your ribbon and enjoy it.  Now, pick a passage of Scripture and slowly read it and without a plan, a clock or a to-do list, read that chapter or book seven days in a row – slowly.   If you do that, you will discover a richer and deeper level of communication God has for you in His Word.  He speaks through His Word and that rarely happens when we race through it and treat it as another item on our “to-do” list.

Get into the Word.  Don’t race through it.  Take your time and allow Him to teach you through His Word.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

 

Thoughts From John 11

How would you handle this situation?

You just received word that a very close friend of yours is deathly ill.   You’re about a two day journey away from them and you know a visit from you would be greatly appreciated.  Wouldn’t you go to see them if it was possible?

Lazarus, Mary and Martha are friends of Jesus and the Scriptures seem to indicate they are close friends.  Reading the text closely it is quite possible Mary, Martha and Lazarus are wealthy (burial in a cave, professional mourners, Mary uses costly anointment in John 12, etc.) so it is also reasonably possible they may have financially supported His ministry.  Jesus and those three have a connection beyond just people who casually knew each other.  One of them, Lazarus, gets quite sick and a message is sent to Jesus.  He is about 50 miles away, probably a brisk 2 day journey.

Here is where our actions often differ from Jesus.  Many of us would probably make a schedule change in our personal calendar and see if we could head to our friend and help in any way we could.

Jesus, however, does something completely different.  He intentionally waits 2 more days before he heads to Bethany (near Jerusalem).   It’s strange when you really think about it.  His friend is very sick – sick enough that people close to both of them thought Jesus needed to know about it his condition – and Jesus decided to stick around right where He was for another 2 days.  In our way of thinking and our time frame, it can be hard to understand why He would do such a thing.

Of course, we know how this story ends, but at the time, other than Jesus, nobody had any idea of what is about to happen.  I wonder if anyone around Jesus was a little disturbed about His lack of interest in going to Lazarus.  I wonder if anyone became a little frustrated with Him.  Had I been present, there is a good chance I would have been perplexed about His lack of response to the plight of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

He waited.

He waited 2 more days.

He waited because He knew there was a bigger issue going on here than Lazarus being sick.  He was not just going to heal Lazarus but raise him from the dead.

I can get frustrated when God doesn’t respond when I want Him too.  For some reason, I tend to expect God to obey my commands, come to me when I summon Him and do what I say.  Sounds rather arrogant and presumptuous don’t it?

Like Mary, Martha and everyone else aware of Lazarus’ sickness, we don’t know the whole story.  There is often something else going on other than what I can see. There is not a connection between my perceived lack of activity of the LORD’s part, what is really happening.  This is where trust comes into play.  If I really believe Jesus is who He said He is, then there are times when I must trust Him.

Pray and believe.  Ask Him and expect Him to hear!  But always trust Him for the answer.  Always remember, His timing is not ours and often times, there is something bigger going on that the resolution to our problem.

Blessings my friend!

-jm