The Pew Report & Ministry Metrics

June 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Evangelical Church – Pew Report – Reality
In the Fable ‘Chicken Little’ he is struck on the head by an object. He cries out – – The Sky is Falling – The Sky is Falling!! (Actually, it was an acorn!) Here is a link to that Fable. (http://www.eleaston.com/chicken.html) I post the final sequence for my readers convenience. The alarm was overstated hyperbole but the result was a disaster. This is similar to what will transpire in the evangelical church if we do not have the courage of genuine discernment, embrace reality, and take wise, persistent, and prudent action – – SOON!
So Foxy Loxy led Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey across a field and through the woods.  He led them straight to his den, and they never saw the king to tell him that the sky is falling.
The recent Pew Report on the decline of Christianity in America launched a flurry of Panic, I told you so’s, and a host of other responses. My Grandpa taught me that ‘liars can figure, but figures don’t lie’. There is a modicum of truth in that aphorism. But, (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/
In this article my objective is to tell the real story. It is utterly and absolutely undeniable that many Denominations are not only declining, they are in free fall. The losses reported in the past decade are astronomical. To continue on this path will result in the closure of many more assemblies known as churches (sic). This precipitous decline is in Denominations that have abandoned in wholesale fashion the Authority of Scripture and the historic concept of Evangelical orthodoxy. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, published nearly 100 years ago but applicable to our time exposed the foolishness of this approach to ministry.
The Pew Report prompted a host of Evangelical pundits to quickly trumpet their numbers. These figures do not show decline. In some cases there are even modest gains. While true, this is merely part of the story. The fact that there is not decline may even be a negative factor in the future of the American Church. This may lull some to be ‘at ease in Zion’. A very bad place to reside. Israel in their arrogance was once there:
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, . . . (Amos 6:1).
First, the church is never going to die. Not in America. Not in any part of this world. The church is the Body & Bride of Christ. He stated emphatically that He is building that church (Matt. 16:18), He never fails, and He never lies. Mark it down.
Second, there is a serious and deadly flaw in the way the Evangelical Church measures effectiveness; numbers only. Bigger is better, biggest is best. Denominations are accorded slots for Chaplains in our military services based on numbers. These numbers are based on attendance and primarily on membership statistics.
(One of my Board Members is a retired military officer. He joined a church. He was then transferred numerous times. After 15 years he once again resides in the area where he joined that church. He told the Church Secretary they wanted to join that church. He was told, ‘Oh Dr. XXXX, you are already a member!’ In some cases you cannot get off the church roles even when you die!!) The fallacy of mere numbers and membership stats!
The SBC claims to have about 16 million members. However, on the best Sunday of the year there are not 7 million in attendance. There have been numerous formal attempts to correct this. Those attempts are always met with scorn and defeat. How dare you challenge our standing as the largest Evangelical denomination? Excuse me. (The SBC is not alone in this charade.) I have personally corresponded with numerous Denominational Leaders who state clearly they agree with my thesis that we are applying an erroneous metric. But, nothing changes. How tragic.
Third, numbers are important because they represent people. But, the proper Metric for measuring ministry effectiveness is not numbers alone. Rather, it is transformation. We are commanded and privileged to make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 9:23; Rom. 12:2; Col. 2:6-7). Edgar Schein offers a sterling statement regarding organizational metrics:
What you have not defined you cannot measure!
Fourth, every organization that expects to survive has a viable and accurate metric for success. If you do not know with accuracy what your purpose and objective is, you are merely beating the wind. MacDonalds recently saw a small % decline in their sales. They dismissed the CEO. They eliminated numerous menu items. Why? To correct the fact that they were missing the mark. The metric they had established and defined for success was not being met. The church should exhibit such integrity and diligence.
It matters very little how many thousand people ‘attend’ Sunday services if they are not transformed into the image of Christ. For the church to assess effectiveness she must have a well defined and accurate definition of transformation. She must assess  ministry using this metric. To fail in this process is quite simply to fail at the very mandate, the singular mandate in the Great Commission – Make Disciples. Here is ‘a’ definition. The means by which this is accomplished will vary from church to church but the fact of transformation into the image of Christ must not be ignored.
Transformation – is the objective and observable positive change in the life     of a disciple into the character, conduct and likeness of Jesus Christ. The principles and precepts of God’s Word are the directives for this change and they are applied in the routines of life consistently with joy. The change is measured objectively based on behavior that reflects obedience to the Scripture, “all that Jesus has commanded’. This process is accomplished in the context of transparency and vulnerability with accountability and is lived out in a ‘life in community’ context within the body of Christ.
The Greek word for “one another” is “allelon” which denotes a reciprocal and mutual work on the part of believers toward one another. It occurs 58 times in the New Testament, excluding the Gospels. A church body which practices these commands experiences a meaningful dynamic deep caring concern for fellow believers; connectedness, unity, cooperation, commitment, accountability, other-centeredness, involvement. These concepts can be measured objectively.God has given the Church His blueprint for building itself up. This includes relating to one another in and everybody doing their part (Eph. 4:12-16). As we follow His design, we will see a dynamic church that is healthy and effective. Probably much smaller in ‘numbers’ for a time but profoundly more powerful and effective in proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. The end result will be a church that is filled with those who meet the profile Christ gave us (Luke 14:25-33).
Summary
Do not be ‘led through the woods’ by those with nefarious motives – preserve status quo at all costs. Never fear Pastor. Unlike our friends who followed Foxy Loxy, you WILL see the King. You will give an account for your care and feeding of the sheep. He is Holy, Merciful and Worthy. His word is clear and it calls for transformation not mere numbers and activity.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
We simply must engage in what Jim Collins calls in his book Good To Great (p. 86)  ‘Brutal Reality’. We should always speak the truth. The truth regarding the evangelical church is that she is currently and persistently focused on  the wrong issue; numbers rather than transformation. REPENT! Isaiah spoke truth to power in his ministry;
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:13-18)
So, what Metric are you applying? Attendance? Membership? Offerings? Baptisms? All these issues matter but they are not the primary issue. Are the people you shepherd being transformed into the image of Christ? Can you measure that transformation with a high degree of accuracy? We ARE going to see the KING!

Comments are closed.