How do you measure the success of your ministry?
Joe Boyd and Rich Gorman and I talked about that for almost an hour last week in Christian Standard’s monthly Beyond the Standard online interview program, all while trying to address our assigned topic, “Church and Culture.”
“The hardest thing about vocational ministry,” Boyd said, “is you never really know if you’ve done a good job or not.” Boyd doesn’t believe numbers alone can tell the story. He spoke about the ministry of Jesus who preached to the thousands but soon had only a dozen followers. And all of them largely deserted our Lord in his hour of greatest need.
“For 10 years I worked in churches of over 5,000,” he said. “I would become slightly nauseous as it came time to look at the metrics.
“If I were to start a church today,” Boyd continued, “I would use some of those metrics [such as attendance or giving totals] and have them apply only to the business of running a nonprofit organization. I would make sure we’re paying our bills and having a sound business plan, but to me that’s not being the church. That’s just operating within a culture that gives the church a certain status.”
He continued, “I would change all the metrics. All my measures would be about justice and poverty issues,” he concluded, “because I believe that’s what the gospel should do in the city.”
But success with such issues is not measured easily; these are problems not solved quickly.
Gorman, who serves in the city of Chicago, said, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to set yourself up for the long haul, not to rely on the big splash.”
He suggested we focus on the why behind the numbers. Are people giving because they feel they must or because of a “compelling gratitude for who God is and what he’s done”? Are people attending worship to pay a debt or because they “desperately need to pour out” their hearts in worship to God?
Gorman spoke of goals his congregation is pursuing in his community around the problems of illiteracy, gang recruitment, and gun violence. And he said all these are decreasing in his neighborhood “because we’re here.”
His rationale for their approach? “We have to live lives that beg the question, ‘Give me a reason for the hope that you have.’”
Maybe this insight speaks best to the question we were attacking in our hour-long interview. How can the church have any impact on the culture around us? The best answer may be, “one person at a time.”
Joe Boyd is founder and president of Rebel Pilgrim Productions in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rich Gorman and his wife, Dori, serve as copastors of Community Christian Church’s Edgewater campus on the north side of Chicago, Illinois.
Hear their whole conversation with editor Mark A. Taylor at Christian Standard’s archive of Beyond the Standard online interviews.