How can churches know if they are being effective at making
Many churches are measuring the wrong things. We measure
things like attendance and giving, but we should be looking at more fundamental
things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under
the thumb of their lusts. Those things can be counted, but not as easily as
Why don't more churches gauge these qualities among their
First of all, many leaders don't want to measure these
qualities because what they usually discover is not worth bragging about. We'd
rather focus on institutional measures of success. Secondly, we must have people
who are willing to be assessed in these ways. And finally, we need the right
tools to measure spiritual formation. There are some good tools available like
Randy Frazee's Christian Life Profile and Monvee.com,
which John Ortberg likes.
In the past people grew through relationships with spiritual
mentors and by engaging the church community. Is there a danger that these
individual assessment tools will remove the role of community in formation?
Any of these devices must be used in a community setting.
Assessment tools that work best are a combination of self-assessment and the
assessment of a significant other who knows you well. They don't work with
people who don't want to be assessed, and they should not be administered like
individual personality tests that some employers use.
If you have a group of people come together around a vision
for real discipleship, people who are committed to grow, committed to change,
committed to learn, then a spiritual assessment tool can work. But there must be
a deep fellowship of trust to support that work. I don't think any group should
go into an assessment without that. I wouldn't advise a pastor to use one of
these tools on his or her congregation without first establishing a clear
commitment to discipleship. You can't take your average congregation and just
lay one of these assessments on them.
Are you ever discouraged by how few churches have that kind
of clear commitment to discipleship?
I am not discouraged because I believe that Christ is in
charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what
he is doing and he is marching on.
But I do grieve for the people within the church who are
suffering—especially the pastors and their families. They are suffering
because much of North America and Europe has bought into a version of
Christianity that does not include life in the kingdom of God as a disciple of
Jesus Christ. They are trying to work a system that doesn't work. Without
transformation within the church, pastors are the ones who get beat up. That is
why there is a constant flood of them out of the pastorate. But they are not the
only ones. New people are entering the church, but a lot are also leaving.
Disappointed Christians fill the landscape because we've not taken discipleship
What can pastors do to change this dynamic?
Change their definition of success. They need to have a vision
of success rooted in spiritual terms, determined by the vitality of a pastor's
own spiritual life and his capacity to pass that on to others.
When pastors don't have rich spiritual lives with Christ, they
become victimized by other models of success—models conveyed to them by their
training, by their experience in the church, or just by our culture. They begin
to think their job is managing a set of ministry activities and success is about
getting more people to engage those activities. Pastors, and those they lead,
need to be set free from that belief.