I caught the end of an interview with a Tennessee Titans player prior to the game with the New Orleans Saints today. The interviewer had just asked some question about statistics. The player’s reply went something like this: “Look, the Packers are last in defense, but they are 12-0. Those who are depending on statistics won’t be playing after December.” In other words, the numbers we often count don’t always determine who is best at the game.
When it comes to the church, we spend a lot of time on statistics—How many were in worship? What were the contributions? Are we meeting budget? These can serve as measures of a church’s progress, but the real danger comes in letting these statistics be the sole determining factors in the choices we make as the people of God. Too often we are called on to make decisions that protect the “bottom line”—decisions based on what is expedient rather than what is faithful to the mission that God has given us.
I will confess that I have personally made decisions that were expedient. They seemed right at the time, but as I think back now I realize what I gave up in making those decisions. Those are the ones that come back to trouble me. On the other hand, when I have occasionally made a decision that was the right thing to do regardless of the consequences, I have not regretted it. Certainly, decisions based on conviction can have negative results but they are worth it!
So what should we be counting in the local church? We need to identify, encourage, and keep track of those who are doing meaningful ministry in the community. We should consider how much money we are investing in ourselves versus what we are investing in larger kingdom projects. We can take a look at our membership and see if we are unconsciously excluding some who should be part of our fellowship. We need to find ways to measure spiritual formation and growth in discipleship among our members. We must be honest in considering how long it has been since we took a stance for the common good that went counter to our community’s prejudices.
These are things that will “keep us in the game” for the long haul. They are what count in measuring faithfulness.