One of the ways a community can discover if they’re reading the Word with a filter, is in evaluating the means by which you try to measure your effectiveness.
If I’m in the Room of Good Intentions, striving to please God I may want to measure our effectiveness through an external criterion using the easiest measurable behaviors and convince myself that real change is taking place.
So, if I think the goal is to get our people to read their Bibles more, I might test how much people are initially reading their Bibles. Then I might teach on the need and command to read the Bible. Then maybe I’ll create a program that gives everyone a Bible and a chart and maybe even an incentive-reward program; like tickets to a local sporting event. And after maybe 3 months I’ll measure again to discover that folks are reading their Bible more. Then we’ll smile and be thankful that our community is growing in the discipline of reading the Bible. Check.
There are several problems with such a measure of evaluation: 1) Have I measured the right thing? 2) Have I encouraged a new heart condition or simply temporarily modified behavior? 3) Am I teaching people to comply and appease or obey from the heart? 4) Am I setting them up for eventual failure, guilt, shame and even less Bible reading a year from now? 5) Has the heart been effected in any way through the expectation that people should read their Bible more? 6) Have I appealed to the flesh or wooed the new nature by my efforts?
This same measurement assessment process can be enacted to test improvement in small groups, giving, attendance, missions, evangelism-whatever...And staff folk can have great statistics at job review time and we can all tell ourselves we’re good stewards…and such.
But none of it is worth a bag of denuded mulching salt when it comes to measuring spiritual health, spiritual maturity, or life in Christ. In fact, you may actually be teaching people to do wonderfully right things for terribly wrong reasons by ridiculously impotent means.
If instead, the “goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”, then the methodology and the measurement and the behaviors being measured, even whether things need to be measured, might change completely!
I know this isn’t giving much help to folks who like to measure things and want to feel like they’re giving due diligence to stuff. And there is much right in trying to assess if what we’re doing and how we’re living is relevant, right, working, and making a difference.
But it is possible to prove nearly nothing by testing “success” through the most external, easily quantifiable events.
So, what might we want to measure? Well, if we’re measuring issues of the heart, then we might want to try to observe behaviors that reflect the heart. Getting a person to begrudgingly read their Bible more than they previously wanted to doesn’t prove health or ensure maturity any more than pushing a snail through a grain elevator will ensure the Chicago Cubs will win their division!
However, a person seeing God right and themselves right, will probably eventually cause them to read their Bible more and probably cause them to mature quite a bit, and receive love more and enjoy this life a lot, we’re thinking.
So, for folks who want to measure stuff, it might be a great exercise to spend some time figuring out how to encourage and discern heart freedom.
I actually might be able to measure to some degree how well a community is growing in spiritual health by observing whether we are:
*Being able to give and receive affirmation more freely
*Learning to give and receive love
*Learning to trust God and others with ourselves
*Believing we are “Christ in us” on our worst day
*Enjoying ourselves in the presence of God
*Not feeling condemned
*Beginning to experience safety in relationships
*Beginning to heal from unresolved issues
*Beginning to dream
*Becoming more vulnerable in what we allow others to know about us
*Giving some permission to protect us
*Risking to forgive before God and to pursue reconciliation with those who hurt us
*…and on and on.
Here’s the catch. You’ll probably discover these are much harder to quantify than small group attendance. But here’s hope. You may discover you can spend much less time assessing and more time enjoying. For an environment of grace has a “self-assessing, built-in validation” simply in the palpable and tangible sense and presence of God’s validation.
One Sunday morning in the funky community where the three of us are known, I asked from the pulpit how long it took for people to know they were in a “safe environment” where they might be able to be themselves and be known without fear or religious judgment. Every hand I could see went up when I worked my way down to “less than 5 minutes.” There is something palpable and tangible and experientially assessed in any Room of Grace.
…It’s God’s form of measurement. And it measures with His criterion. Our job is probably not much more than to just stay, as much as possible, in the right Room.
John, one of the three amigos, in the ever-growing tribe of grace…