God continues to bring a phrase to mind through different men, books, and blogs: “Change the score card”. As a church planter, the idea of a score card is something a pastor never admits he is always thinking about. Though no one is really keeping score, pastors can’t help but feel as if there is. Most days, we feel like we are either winning or losing the “numbers” game.
They say numbers are important, but I wonder if we say that to make ourselves feel better. In truth, numbers don’t tell us everything, but they tell us something. And that something is often the one thing that has become too important to us. Pastors know this and, for the most part, they try and fight this. As much as pastors try to ignore numbers, or pretend like they don’t really matter, they can’t resist the Post Easter blogs and Facebook posts about the number in attendance, the number of baptisms, and the number of volunteers that made it all happen. Don’t get me wrong, there is much to celebrate and thank God for here. If I’m honest (which is rare for a pastor when talking about numbers), these numbers make me either prideful or despairing depending on how our church measures up. Or dare I say, how “I” measure up.
This is all sinful, wrong, and sad, which leads me back to the idea of changing the score card. If you change the score card then you’ll change not only how you play the game, but how you feel about the game you played. Without a change in the score card, another’s success (one who plays the same game as you) will always be difficult to celebrate and another’s failure will be too easy to empathize with. Without a change in the score card, you will constantly turn inward to examine whether if you are doing everything “right”. You will question your decisions, your systems, your programs, your preaching, everything. Your pursuit of a higher score will drain you of all your energy as you spend it wondering what you can add, change, or stop. Invariably, you will begin to believe that the “success” of God’s mission is in your control. Failure mean’s losing. Losing means disappointing. Somewhere you failed to see that God’s definition of success was the crucifixion of His Son.
In truth, God’s mission just isn’t as fragile as our faith in Him. There are certainly some things that pastors an influence, but there isn’t much they can control. This is God’s church, God’s, mission, and God’s ministry. We have received a ministry from God, meaning, who we have, who we don’t have, what we have, and what we don’t have is in God’s hands. Numbers are in God’s hands, whether that is attendees, salvation, or baptisms. We water . We fertilize. We till. God grows. God builds. God bears fruit.
So what must we focus on? We must not focus our attention or energy on how to attract more people. That is not our job. We cannot control who will come to our church. But we can control who we send from it. We must not focus on evangelism but on disciple-making. We must shepherd the flock that is before us and train them to follow Jesus. Let us not forget that, by all ministry “measurables” Jesus ministry was a utter failure. But for three years he focused most of his energies on 12 different men. He knew they would do more. More than that, he sacrificed all that He had in to ensure they would…in the future.