KOH2RVA: Day 141

bus-off-cliff-259x300I’m back from Arizona, and a meeting with pastors of other large churches who were interested in this whole “bringing heaven to earth” thing. I got a chance to explain what we were up to in Richmond, and I saw some of them taking notes. But they did want to know a couple of things in particular:

1. Have you seen an increase in attendance?
2. Have you seen an increase in giving?

Because this is how we’ve learned to measure success.

Pastors of large churches are considered successful because their churches are large, and if they want to stay successful they have to think about how to keep them that way. I don’t blame them for asking if our year-long, every-member mission trip has stimulated growth and giving.

But the answer is no.

In the 141 days that we’ve been working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, I’ve actually noticed a significant drop in attendance. And at the end of last year we were nearly $200,000 behind in our giving. If our KOH2RVA mission bus keeps heading in that direction someone may start screaming, “Abort! Abort! We’re headed over a cliff!”

But we’re only 141 days into this mission.  Anything could happen.  We could begin to see a huge surge in attendance and giving.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we do.  But just in case we don’t I’ve been searching the instruction manual for that place where Jesus says success is measured by how many people come to church on Sunday morning and how much money they give.

I can’t find it anywhere.

I’ll keep looking, but so far I’m finding things like loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; things like loving our neighbors as ourselves; things like caring for “the least of these”—Jesus’ brothers and sisters. That’s how success is measured in the Kingdom, and it shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus told us a long time ago that in God’s Kingdom the yardstick is turned upside-down—the last are first and the least are great.

As that Kingdom comes closer and closer to Richmond, Virginia, we may have to start measuring success in a whole new way.

6 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 141

  1. We should always measure success by the number of lives we touch; not in money and attendance. The mission field is located beyond Monument Avenue. The moment my feet hit Monument Avenue, I know I’m back on the mission field.

  2. My sense from a lot of living is that “Truth, like beauty and fairness, is often in the eye of the beholder” which suggests to me that those two measures — attendance & giving — aren’t the best ones for us to use in very many enterprises as well as in churches,— nor is visibility in doing “good works”. Rather to me, the love and caring, and continuing interest in those who need us is more likely a better reflection of the heaven we seek to bring closer to Richmond — of course, the giving does help often to make it possible!!!

  3. This whole concept of “measuring success” in the church has come from the accountabilty thinking that the business model brought to the 70s,80,s and 90s. There is a need in any oerganization to be accountable for success. This is fine for a business that deals with figures but organizations like churches (and schools) cannot be judged agequatly by numbers alone. So people look at membership and giving as success for the churchand SOL standardized tests for school success.
    A church with 5 members and a 300 a year budget may be ( and probably is) more favorable in God’s eye than mege-church.

  4. My mentor and professor, Dr. Lynn Elder, professor of Pastoral Care at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, always said that one way to look at success in the church is by the quality of interactions taking place in the church as we relate to one another and the community. In many ways, I believe Richmond’s First Baptist Church has never been more successful! I love what I am doing and it feels like we (our church) is on a great adventure! i don’t want to miss anything!

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