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How do we measure being ‘missional’?

At just about every church leadership event, the first question attendees ask of one another is “How big is your church?” (i.e., “How many people attend on Sunday mornings?”).

Follow-up measurements of success include how many newcomers, conversions, baptisms, or donors we have had in the past year. By these counts, many of us would be deemed to have failed.

But what if we asked different questions?

That could change everything, including how we think about what it means to be God’s people and “succeed” in God’s mission.

One of the questions I now often ask church leadership and pastors as we begin to assess where they are at missionally is, “How much time, energy, and resources are allocated to your neighbors, to participating in God’s mission where the Spirit has sent you to remain?”

It changes everything. What if, instead of asking “How can we get people to church?” or “What project, program, or service can we provide for the community?” we asked, “Where is the Holy Spirit at work in our neighborhoods? How will we discover what God is up to, and how can we join in?”  

What if we counted how many conversations with neighbors we had each week, how often we sat down for a meal with our neighbors and listened to their stories, or how many of our congregants were participating in neighborhood activities, events, and volunteer opportunities?

What if in our home visits we asked, “How are you keeping the greatest commandment by loving your neighbors? What are you learning and discerning about God, your neighbors, God’s mission, and yourself as you seek to bear witness to God’s loving reign in your ordinary everyday life on this block?”

And what if “joining the Spirit on God’s mission in our neighborhoods” was part of the job description for everyone in church leadership? And what if these neighboring stories were shared at council meetings, encouraged, affirmed, and reflected upon with discussion? What might God be saying to us as we seek to love our neighbors? And what might be a next step?

That could change everything. We might find that many more of us in our seemingly small and insignificant congregations are “successfully” and, more importantly, faithfully living missionally.

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