God at Work
I live with a nagging doubt that my contribution to the Kingdom isn’t as significant as it should be. It is one thing to faithfully gather for worship but it is quite something else to experience the rule and reign of God break through as a result of the way I live.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not driven by guilt. I am not co-dependent. I don’t feel over-responsible or even falsely responsible. I certainly don’t have a ‘savior complex.’ I don’t carry around the overwhelming need to step in and ‘save’ (read, ‘help’) someone because, “If I don’t, who will?” I know that Jesus is savior enough for anyone.
It’s just that I wonder whether I’m really making a difference. I mean, how do I truly measure the impact I’m having? Should I be doing more of a particular ‘thing’ and less of something else? Does God value certain actions higher than others? I have had seasons where these, and other similar questions, roll through my mind.
What I ask about my life personally, I ask for our church too. How do we know that we are making a difference? If it is true, which I believe it is, that the Kingdom of God ushers in God’s rule and reign – something that brings healing and wholeness – how do we evaluate the difference we are making?
That’s a question we’ve taken very seriously when it comes to evaluating our impact at Central. How do we make sure that we’re not spending a lot of energy on things that aren’t contributing anything of lasting value to God’s rule and reign being experienced where we live? How do we measure our church’s fruitfulness?
For the most part, churches measure their success on three levels:
1. Attendance: How many people attend Sunday worship?
2. Salvations: How many people have confessed Christ as savior?
3.Baptisms: How many people have made their private confession public through baptism?
At Central, our mission is to Amplify the Hope and Life of Jesus. Recognizing that we aren’t going to be evaluated on the number of people we seat, we set out to broaden our metrics somewhat. Since we exist to Amplify Hope, we decided that a good starting point to evaluate our fruitfulness was to try and measure our amplification. We made an acrostic out of the word AMPLIFY (of course we did!) to offer some initial guidance:
Attendance: How many people attend our worship services? The church met all-together before getting small-together.
Mobilize Leaders: How many leaders are being mobilized? Ephesians 4 prioritizes the equipping of the saints for works of service.
Practicing Community: How many people are living in community (participate in small groups, community groups and short circles)?
Learning as Disciples: How many people are committed to growing deeper as disciples? Discipleship presupposed learning which is not simply mental assent to truth but life- transformation.
Involved as Servants: How many people are serving Christ in sacrificial ways?
Fruitful Ministry: How many people are being impacted by a holistic Gospel that touches every aspect of our human experience? The Gospel is not just ‘pie in the sky when we die but mean on the plate while we wait.’ How is the Gospel changing lives?
Yielding themselves: How many people are confessing Christ as savior, being baptized, dedicating their children, being called into vocational ministry, etc.?
These questions are by no means comprehensive but they are a good first step.
Now, it’s impossible to know the real impact our faith family is having because so much of this happens through Kingdom connections that extend way beyond our church. So many of our faith family grow through excellent disciple-making ministries outside of our church. So many people serve Christ in sacrificial ways through the plethora of incredible life-saving ministries making a difference in our small town. So many more people come to Jesus than we will ever know. So many people practice community naturally across local church lines that extend beyond the influence and control of any one local church.
Nonetheless, every month our team gleans as much of our Kingdom-impacting information as we can. We are not keeping count as much as checking how we’re doing. If attendance is up and the number of people yielding themselves to Christ or practicing community is way down, then maybe we aren’t as effective in Kingdom terms as we think we are. Kingdom impact demands sacrifice and community. If we neither witnessed people confessing Christ nor breaking free of life-controlling hurts, habits and hang-ups then we probably need to check whether our ministry is about the life of Christ or empty religion.
I’ve come to love this ‘broad’ reality check. I like it because it offers much needed balance and helps us move away from a preoccupation with the number of people we seat each week. As important as that is, there is so much more to Kingdom effectiveness than that.
I also like it because it encourages me to evaluate my own Kingdom contribution in holistic terms.
On a given day I may have the opportunity to minister in one of these given areas but not necessarily in all of them. Maybe my contribution is giving someone a ride to church who would otherwise have had to stay away. Maybe it’s inviting a neighbor for a coffee to take our friendship to a deeper level. Maybe it’s taking the time to pray with someone who’s having a hard time. Maybe it’s being bold enough to share Christ with someone for whom I’ve been praying for quite some time. Maybe it’s signing up to serve as a mentor in a school.
Which of these ‘maybes’ it is, is beyond my control. It’s God’s job to open the doors. It’s my job to walk through them. When I take a step of obedience, no matter how small that step may appear to me to be, I am making a Kingdom impact. Whether it is a simple as ensuring that no-one misses the chance to connect for worship and community or leading someone to Jesus, obedience to the opportunity God places in front of me is the mark of a spiritual great.
On Sunday I encouraged us to recognize that God does His work through our work (Psalm 147:2-6). The world is a battlefield and we are part of God’s restoration plan. We may have predetermined ideas of what we’d like our part to be. Let’s not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that our Kingdom effectiveness this week is dependent solely on these predetermined ideas coming to fruition. God may open those doors. He may not. As much as we may like to prioritize certain Kingdom breakthroughs over others – say someone coming to Christ - God’s work in this world is a Kingdom work. God wants to see His rule and reign breakthrough in such a way that evil is pushed back and healing and wholeness are experienced. Every contribution we offer in obedience to a divine opportunity is a worthwhile contribution to the kingdom.
Be effective this week. Whatever opportunity God offers you, take it. Let’s all be sure to measure our impact on a holistic, all-inclusive and rounded scales.