I believe we need a major paradigm shift.
If we continue to measure the same things, to build our churches with the same goals, we’re going to continue to get the same disappointing results. We need to acknowledge that every church has a lifecycle of increase and decline. There are seasons of growth, seasons of maturing, seasons of reproduction and seasons of decline. We need to stop emphasizing the tree and begin looking at the orchard. To borrow a phrase from Steven Covey we need to begin with the end in mind.
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Geoff Surratt writes:
The idea of numerical growth being the major measure of success is deeply baked into our culture. Outreach Magazine’s list of the 100 largest and fastest growing churches is by far its biggest selling issue. Twitter lights up every Easter and Christmas as the sem-ilost return to the fold, and we report our new record attendance. We add measurement on measurement to create the perfect metric. Its nickels and noses, its small group attendance, its number of volunteers, it number of missional communities. We are looking for the Nirvana of Numbers that will finally tell us that we are doing a good job, or at least that we’re doing a better job than the guy down the street. The sad thing is that there is no end to the race. A pastor of a church of 20,000 told me that the real goal was 30,000. Once they arrived on that mountaintop they could then turn their attention to other things.
Pastors, however, are not just in it for the numbers. The bottom-line for almost every pastor I know is Kingdom impact. He isn’t as concerned about making a list (as nice as that might be) as he is in knowing that he had made a difference. All of the numbers are just a way to figure out if the blood, sweat and tears that he has sacrificed in ministry have been worth it. The sad truth is that for many pastors who are entering their sixties they don’t know that it has. Their churches have stopped growing and may even be beginning to decline. The thrill of the next goal, the next barrier is past and they are asking, “Is this all there is? I’ve played the numbers game, now what?”