Thursday, December 08, 2016

Quantity or Quality?

Some may be surprised that I am a fan of Willow Creek Community Church, located in the Chicago suburb of Barrington.  Even if you are not a proponent of the megachurch model, you have to admit that they probably do it well. 

One of the things I like about Willow and its leadership is the willingness to self-reflect and evaluate the effectiveness of what they are doing. Several years ago, the church undertook a major evaluation of how they were doing discipleship. In an article on the study, Russ Rainey reported:

Before the research, Willow Creek had been assuming that ‘the more a person far from God participates in church activities, the more likely it is those activities will produce a person who loves God and loves others.’  However, this assumption was found to be invalid by the research.  To quote the study: ‘Does increased attendance in ministry programs automatically equate to spiritual growth?  To be brutally honest: it does not.’”

To put it succinctly, quantity does not guarantee quality.  Just doing more does not assure that it is making a difference in one’s life.  Likewise, producing more in larger quantities means little if the product is no good. 

One of my professors critiqued the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”  He argued that only PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Quantity does not assure quality.

This is true in every area of life.  Jesus reminded his disciples, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) and critiqued those who thought that the quantity of their words justified them before God.

Perhaps the lesson for us as believers is to do things well even if the quantity is not great.  This may apply to our writing.  We may produce but a few paragraphs a day but they can be well done.  This is certainly true of sermons.  I have found it harder to craft a quality 15-minute homily than a 45-minute expository sermon.  Although my seminary classes as a student often had 80 or more enrolled, as a teacher I enjoy the dialogue and interaction with 8 to 10 students.

Although success is often measured by quantity, perhaps real success comes in the quality of what we do. Are you successful?  Depends on how you measure success—by quantity or quality?

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