The Measure of a Ministry
Crowds, cash, and concrete. Most modern Christians measure ministries by standards that are not accurate to authentic scriptural growth. It is unfortunate that many have misconstrued and minimized spiritual success to building size, administrative structure, and well-organized programs. These things can certainly be results of spiritual growth, but they are never replacements for authentic spiritual health.
I suppose that is really the point that needs to be made: There is a fine line between growth and health. A church or church ministry may be “growing” but not necessarily in the right way. Too often we try to duplicate the results of “successful” churches or ministries without having the proper foundation or essentials in place. You see this everywhere, not just in churches. If something works, then why not try it? Why not do it like they do it? This is the mindset of corporations, businesses, charities, academia, and numerous other groups within society.
However, for a church, the great danger is not duplicating another congregation; rather, it is failing to define what “success” means. Secular influences have programmed us to measure our successes and failures by worldly standards. What we feel, what we see, and what we like replaces the truth of God’s Word; and so “what we hear” becomes secondary to everything else. This creates an environment that is driven by emotions, spreadsheets, music, feelings, preferences, and culture. Again, those items may have place within our congregations, but when they become the selling point, then we have crossed over into a different business—one unrelated to God’s Word.
Historically, churches always thrive when they are in step with the world; and this is a problem. When I say “thrive” I am speaking of popular, numerical growth. It is when the Constantines of this world popularize Christianity that apostasy fills the pulpits and pews. When Christianity is bought and sold and repackaged, it may have a strong presence, a populous appeal, but such a product dies out with every trendy wind of doctrine that blows into town. Eventually, it must reinvent itself—again and again and again—until it becomes completely unrecognizable from its original form. Reinvention of a church leads to flawed measurements of health. What seems healthy today may or may not be healthy tomorrow based upon ideas, leanings, and yes, even fashion. A church is not healthy because it has blue lights on the platform and a skinny-jeans-wearing pastor. But neither is it healthy because it has 1970’s wooden-panel on the walls and a man of God who wears a three-piece suit. What makes a church healthy is its likeness to Jesus Christ.
Ironically, likeness to Christ involves suffering, affliction, and persecution. Historically, these items have always purified a church to great health and holiness. But who is willing to “market” these characteristics to a world that is looking for the “cool” effect? I do not know of a church, including my own, that would advertise their ministry as one that endures affliction, carries a cross, battles spiritual wickedness, and walks out of step with the world. We do not promote our assembly in that way because the world is looking for something else. And this is what the greatest problem of our day is: we are allowing the wrong standards to become the identity of our churches and ministries.