The Measure of Your Ministry

4 12 2012

Tuesday Re-mix –

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Corinthians 3:1-3

I will be the first to admit I have validation issues…O.K., maybe not the first to admit it, but I do get to that admission eventually. 🙂  What other people think of me probably matters more to me than it should…words of affirmation are definitely how I feel loved (thank you, Gary Chapman).  Add to that my (mostly-healthy) competitive nature and then stir in my very American-public-school-achievement orientation, and you have a recipe for a man who is all about constantly assessing his successes versus his failures.  It is important to me.  Maybe it is important to you too.

I measure everything.  I measure my case load and my billings at work.  I measure my workouts and my sleep hours at home.  I measure my quality time spent with my wife and with my daughters (never enough).  I measure the conferences and speaking engagements I do, the writing time I have, the churches with whom I consult, and the budget dollars in my ministry.  I measure the attendance in The Gathering, and my teaching time there.  I measure my readership, my “hits”, my “click-throughs” and my subscriptions to this blog.  I am always assessing and reassessing and measuring the success and/or failure of all these endeavors.  I’ll bet you do as well.

The question is, in ministry, what does success look like?  How is it really measured?  I know you have already read many, many articles and posts on measuring success in ministry (if not, look here for one of my own).  But will you allow me this one simple reminder, straight from the apostle Paul himself?  The clearest testimony of the effectiveness of your ministry is the lives God has changed through it.  Ultimately, it is not the buildings you have built, the budgets you have grown and/or met, the attendance you have amassed, the books you have sold, or any other such measure…except to the extent that any of those things have actually changed lives in the past and are continuing to do so now.

In ministry, everything we do, every new direction we take, every step along the way, is ultimately aimed at changing lives.  If not, then it is a step in the wrong direction.  Those stories of changed lives are the only measures that really matter.  Those testimonies are the best evidence that we are getting it right.  All the other “indicators” may well be pointing the wrong way, but if lives are still being changed, then we have success.  On the other hand, all the other indicators may well be pointing the right way, but it just does not matter unless lives are being changed.  The lives changed by your ministry are the most important commendation you can have.

When it comes to all those other “indicators”, those of us in Christian service would all do well to remember that Jesus himself started his public ministry with huge crowds following him and ended it with just a hundred (or so) followers still hanging on…and it is His Spirit who is driving your ministry.  [*gulp!*]

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Counting Noses or Changing Lives?

7 08 2012

Tuesday Re-mix –

And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  Matthew 14:19-21

Jesus did not take an institutional approach to ministry.  He did not survey the neighborhood to determine what the physical needs were then implement a task force to study those needs and to plan the infrastructure of an organization that might be able to meet those needs and then go looking for funding for that organization and then go looking for the right people to fill the various positions in that organization.  Jesus did not do strategic planning to set specific goals and objectives for his ministry over a one-year, five-year and ten-year plan.

However, I do think Jesus operated according to God-inspired vision.  In the case referenced in Matthew 14 above, I believe Jesus recognized the hunger of the crowd and immediately developed a God-sized vision of what could be…of what should be…and of what would be.  And I believe he had one goal in mind…changing lives.  I do not think that merely feeding the people was his goal.  I also do not believe he had any goals regarding the number of people he wished to reach with this miracle.  Rather, I believe he wanted to change their lives AND change the lives of the disciples who helped Him.  His “vision” for that ministry was far greater than just getting a little food into several thousand hungry stomachs.

So it makes me wonder about our ministries…whether our vision for them is truly God-sized or not.  It makes me wonder if “changed lives” is what we are aiming for  in whatever ministry endeavor we undertake.  It seems to me that, if lives are not being changed by how we as a church are spending our efforts and our resources, then we are not really being the church at all.  I believe this because, everywhere we see Jesus doing ministry in the New Testament, we see lives being changed.  That was always the case then and it seems to me it should always be the case now.

Please understand, I am all for church growth.  In fact, you could probably convince me that growth is a vital sign of health.  So I am not opposed to “numbers” at all.  I do not think a church can be truly healthy if it is not growing.  But I do think that a church or ministry can be growing in terms of number without being truly healthy.  If counting noses is our best measure of the effectiveness of our ministry, then we have completely missed the mark.

The persons to whom Jesus ministered had their lives changed by their encounter with Him.  Moreover, the disciples who participated in His ministry likewise had their lives changed not only by their own encounters with Jesus, but by participating in others’ encounter with Him as well.  Indeed, this particular miracle of feeding the 5,000 was so very life-changing for the disciples that it became one of the very few moments which are written about in all four of the gospels…and yet, there is not a single mention of how many of those 5,000 actually “joined” Jesus’ band of followers.  This ministry moment was not about adding numbers to Christ’s followers.  It was about changing lives.

The question, then, for me and for you…for my ministry and for your church…is this: irrespective of your numbers, are there lives being changed?  Is your life being changed?  Isn’t that the clearest evidence of an encounter with Him?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com