When was the last time a church coach or lead pastor was fired for not hitting a discipleship quota? Never.
What we measure describes what we deem the most important in the community. By this metric most churches expend most time, money, and resourcing to deliver a Sunday service and programming for the already churched. The ABCs (attendance, building, cash), rule the roost in the contemporary church.
Even though we have a desire to do better with discipleship and mission, our practices suggest the most important element in our churches is the service. Since metrics can be useful in the right context, I propose we do count something specific. Let’s count BAPTISMS.
I’ve attended baptism services for some of the largest evangelical churches in my city, and I’ve counted numbers in their annual reports. The biggest churches in my city baptize under 1% of their total congregation per year. It may seem small, and it is, but smaller churches aren’t doing much better.
Here’s what I’ve noticed, (use your own context to reflect), 90% of the testimonies I hear during baptism services come from existing Christians. They have the a story that begins, “…well, I’ve always been a Christian…” There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s indicative of church culture. Essentially, how good we are at connecting with people who don’t look like us.
Think about it, how much time and resource do you and your church spend connecting with the “nones”, those people who’ve never been to a church service or connected to church community? Is it effectively—well— none?
Your church may baptize 100s of people, but if they’re all existing Christians, this speaks volumes about the witness, as in, there is little witness beyond church walls.
If laying low and shepherding career Christian is your calling, that’s one thing, but I don’t imagine all of our churches and pastors are called to merely manage the existing flock.
I’m always thrilled when I hear that one story when someone declares, “I was lost, but now am found!” There’s also a common thread behind those stories—the people who journeyed with that person for years. There are specific people in your community reflecting missional practices beyond the church walls. They don’t need permission, they just live out their call to join God’s unfolding plan to restore creation. We need more people like this. But how?
There’s no single answer, but to start, we can opt to change the posture of the whole church to see the world through the lens of a God who’s on mission to restore all of creation, and not a God who seeks right thinking and beliefs from those in the safe confines of the church walls. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re simply chasing ways to release more people unto mission, and build those who already are.
The incremental change most churches employ doesn’t seem to be working to right the sinking ship. But the call isn’t to more in an already busy world, the question should be a re-orientation of, “where can we go deeper in the places and space we’re already present?”
That would be a good start to live out the character of Jesus beyond the church walls.
This post is based on an excerpt from the forthcoming book by Rohadi, tentatively titled, Adventures to Save a Dying Church. To learn more about visit www.rohadi.com.