Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blast from the past: Evaluating Church

Found the following on 'Marc's Messages', a blog from a Dutch guy involved in the emerging church movement. Copying other people's stuff is so much easier than writing my own.....

Evaluating church in 2006
"One New Year's Eve I asked my pastor a very straight forward question: 'How many adults came to faith in Christ at our church this year?' The pastor, a very diplomatic man, said, 'I am not sure. I'll have to get back to you on that.' But he and I knew the answer. It was zero. I added it up. That year our church conducted 104 regularly scheduled worship services, 7 special services, some 250 adult classes, 600 committee meetings and 1,000 small-group meetings and ran through a $750,000 budget to produce exactly zero new adult followers of Jesus Christ. We gathered. We worshiped. We loved each other. But we produced no crop. Our church was a contraption worthy of Rube Goldberg: lots of sound, motion, fury to produce a tiny amount of fruit."

Steve Hill quotes 'Why Men Hate Going to Church' by David Murrow, page 164, and adds his 2 cents: "What is interesting is the demand for results when a church gives several hundred dollars to a mission project in the second or third worlds. The unspoken reality is no results, no more money (and that is perhaps as it should be!). Yet that same group will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on themselves without any results and think nothing of it!"

I have no idea who Rube Goldberg is, but that money figure bothers me.

So why don't we evaluate what we do at church? Is it because we suspect we already know the answer, so the idea of evaluation frightens us because we don't like coming to terms with bad news? I'm not sure we have a culture in the church that allows us to face failure with courage and honesty. We're good at reporting good news, but when something fails or doesn't come up to scratch we tend to get a bit embarrassed and not mention it. The fete raised £1000? - hurrah! The fete raised £36.14? - relegated to 1 line on the notice sheet.

On another level, I have lost count of the number of Christian leaders I've heard saying that this generation/year/movement/work of the Spirit was going to be the decisive event in Christendom. Then when it wasn't, nobody puts their hand up. Charismatics are the worst at this, because we're good at confusing enthusiastic optimism with the gift of prophecy.

As a church leader, when did I last apologise to the church for a poor bit of leadership? As a preacher, when did I last invite feedback on a sermon which was bad, rather than the ones I thought went well (so I go fishing for compliments)? I'd love to encourage a culture of experimentation within the church, and it's something I've spoken and (I think) blogged about, but such a culture needs people who can make failure 'safe', who can show that it's ok to try and fail.

Otherwise we will cover our failure with 600 committee meetings, a full programme, lots of optimistic noises and lots of signs to the outside world that we really are doing rather well, just to convince ourselves that all this effort is worthwhile.

How many adults came to faith in Christ at your church last year? Not being afraid of the answer may be the first step to having a different answer come January 2008.

originally posted January 2007.

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