I write mostly about communications and technology on this blog. However, I am first and foremost and United Methodist Pastor. I work with technology because I believe it to be an underused tool in or efforts to do our common work as the Church. It is essential to remember why we are doing what we are doing. With that, it is important to pause occasionally to see how well we are doing what we are doing.
Do you and your church have goals?
I have noticed from my time as a pastor and now my time working with churches that churches tend to shy away from having goals. I remember the pushback I received when, at one of the churches I served, I started talking about goals and strategies. There were some who didn’t believe that sort of language didn’t belong in a church. Some see a church as having certain duties to perform and figure if those are getting done, all is good. But that doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t have goals, how do you know if you are doing what you think you are doing?
The apostle Paul didn’t have any problem with the language of goals. In Philippians 3:12, he writes,
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Paul’s goal was revealed in verse 11:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,
That is a pretty lofty goal. It kept Paul focused on getting better every day instead of resting in the satisfaction of where he was.
United Methodist Elders are required to submit to a pretty high goal in order to be ordained. They must answer some historic questions including these three:
- Are you going on to perfection?
- Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
- Are you earnestly striving after it?
There may be a whole blog series on those questions. Do United Methodist Elders really believe they can be made perfect in love in this lifetime? Well, any less of a goal would allow us to rest wherever we are, thinking we have done enough. Only a goal of that magnitude could drive us to commit our lives to growing in the image and likeness of Christ.
Do you and your church have goals?
Well, scripture has fortunately set some out for us, most famously in Matthew 28:
18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Has your church done that yet? Statistically, no. Well, maybe we need to start smaller. Has your church made disciples of everyone in your community? Does everyone know Christ? Has everyone been baptized?
People reach for objections pretty quick when faced with that. “What about the people of other faiths in my community?” Or, “I am pretty sure that everyone in my community already has a faith tradition.” There is a lot of conversation to be had about our mission to those who believe differently than we do and how we relate to those who claim affiliation with another denomination. However, we are not there yet. I promise you, there are people in your community who have nothing to believe in. They are not necessarily atheist or even agnostic. It is just that no one has yet proclaimed the Gospel to them in a way that they can understand. Or, perhaps, no one has shared the Gospel with them at all. And, I don’t know about you, but I believe that they need to know Jesus. So, the Great Commission stands.
How are you and your church doing? And I am not looking for a general answer like, “Pretty good.” Numerically, statistically, how are you doing? We already measure these things (or we are supposed to.) And they reflect how we are doing on that Great Commission. (This is where someone usually jumps in and says that we can’t really measure the work of God. I would love to have that discussion offline. Because I think you can.)
These are all numbers that Rio Texas churches are supposed to include in their online “Vital Signs” report.
Attendance – How many people are coming to hear the Gospel proclaimed?
Professions of Faith – How many people are professing their faith in Christ and either being baptized or confirming their childhood baptism?
Small Groups – How many groups are gathering to study and grow as disciples?
Mission Outreach – How many people are going out into the community and world to spread the Gospel through word and deed?
Is your church paying attention to these numbers as indicators of how you are living up the Great Commission? If you aren’t, why not? If you are, what goals have you set moving forward? How many professions of faith are you striving to report next year? How many small groups are you expecting to have? How many more people are going to be involved in mission? What are your goals?
Once you have goals, you get to the fun part. As a church, we can begin to think what we need to do to make that happen. Our churches are filled with brilliant, creative, God-loving people. If they have a clear direction of what they want to achieve, they are going to get it done. If they have no direction, they will strive toward nothing. And they will get there.
All of the work we do here at the Rio Texas Mission Vitality Center is focused on resourcing local churches to reach the mission field. It works best when churches have clear goals of what they are trying to accomplish. If your church is looking to increase your participation in the Great Commission through vital ministries, stop by the website and learn more at riotexas.org/mission-vitality-center