I’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.