One of the things that Mike Gaffney said this morning has really stuck with me. When asked, “How many college students attend worship” at his collegiate church-based ministries, he would respond, “I don’t know and I don’t care. The much better question is, ‘How many students are connected in relational way to a member of the congregation?’” And he would know exactly what that number was.
I know Dan Dick has written on this at length, but I wonder — as Christmas Eve approaches — will we think we’ve done our job as a church if the worship attendance goes up?
[picapp align="right" wrap="true" link="term=worship&iid=74963" src="0071/351b76c3-e44c-45a0-8bab-6f439ed5fc64.jpg?adImageId=8444854&imageId=74963" width="234" height="156" /]I hear of some places where worship attendance is the only standard for vitality & accomplishment of mission. In the Texas Annual Conference, we measure 4 Vital Signs of Discipleship. These are worship attendance, professions of faith, hands-on mission, and apportionment payout. No doubt these are four things that ought to be happening in a vital, transformative congregation. But a church could be doing well in all 4 of these areas and not actually be making disciples or transforming the world. (Perhaps professions of faith is the exception, but I can even see a situation where this would cover people are joining a church for the first time…without actually following Jesus. Okay, hands on mission is similar, but giving and pewsitting are ripe for self-deception.)
My concern is that we’ve set the discipleship bar too low. Everyone’s supposed to be a disciple, okay, but we can’t tell people what the real deal is, so we’ll just have so little expectation of your discipleship that everyone can be one. In England, this was called “bums on pews.” (Not the derogatory term, the one for your rear end.) I think we need new metrics, new measuring sticks, new benchmarks for how well we’re accomplishing our stated mission.
If you are a Spirit-filled, Jesus-following, Gospel-sharing, Kingdom-building, Love-motivated, forgiveness- and gracefulness-abounding church member…I’m pretty sure they are in worship. Regularly. But I don’t think you can reverse the assumption with any confidence.
What if we got to a different place? Where someone asked us, “How many people did you worship on Christmas Eve?” and pastors and laity alike said, “I don’t know and I don’t care. Ask me how many people are following Jesus because they encountered him on Christmas Eve.” Let’s make church about something meaningful, transformative, life-changing again…a good gift to lay before our king.