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.