Little Charlie was given a tape measure by his grandfather. He abandoned all his toys to give his attention to the tape measure. He was so obsessed with the new toy that he went around measuring everything in sight. He constantly asked his grandfather questions about items he’d measured: “Grandpa, do you know long your truck is?”
Have you ever noticed how much time, energy, and money is spent on measuring things? Every institution has some procedure for measuring how they are doing. One way is the bottom line on their financial sheet, etc. Most companies are concerned with growth and stability of their products. Success or failure depend on assessments.
Church leaders also measure congregational growth. Have you ever considered the benchmarks most leaders use to measure congregation growth and stability? It usually consists of measuring:
The number in attendance in worship services and Bible classes each week.
The amount of the weekly contribution—meeting budget.
The participation in various programs.
The agreement with doctrinal positions by members.
The finishing of services within the allotted time.
The status of physical facilities.
The choosing of the “right preacher” to draw people.
There is nothing wrong with monitoring these factors, but I wonder if we’re not measuring the wrong indicators relative to the real spiritual growth of a congregation. Have you ever noticed that the New Testament doesn’t place an emphasis or exemplify the above seven measurements for judging the spiritual growth on a congregation?
Under the New Covenant, we find the emphasis is on spiritual behavior, not on external measuring rods such as the above seven. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul exposed numerous qualities of their behavior with their attributes, not their lack of attendance or giving, but to their carnal state: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1).
A reading of Revelation chapters one through three doesn’t reveal Jesus’ concern with the seven benchmarks mentioned above. He zeroes in on their spiritual behavior and attitudes. After acknowledging the overt works of the church in Ephesus, Jesus says, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent…” (Revelation 2:4, 5).
In his brief epistle, which has been called “the gospel of common sense”, James focuses, not on the seven benchmarks, but on spiritual behavior: “Where do wars and fights come from AMONG YOU? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and have not…” (James 4:1, 2).
Jesus made it very clear that what people would notice relative to the success of His followers, wasn’t the seven measuring rods, but one thing: LOVE: “By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
While we discuss them, talk about them, and rarely confront them, such qualities, as anger, gossip, unkindness, unforgiveness, truthfulness, prejudice, etc. aren’t used as measurements of a congregation’s spiritual status.
In exposing the 18 sinful behaviors in the church at Corinth, Paul makes it clear that the solution to correcting the carnal and sinful behaviors was LOVE. In chapter thirteen he gives the attitudinal and behavior qualities of love.
In writing to the church in Galatia, which was abandoning the Gospel and reattaching themselves to Law keeping, Paul didn’t admonish them to attend more and give more, he encouraged them to allow the “fruit of the Spirit” to guide their lives (Galatians 5:16-26).
To the brethren in Philippi, the apostle Paul encouraged them, not to have a carnal mindset relative to what constitutes spiritual growth, but to “Have the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:4-12). And in chapter four, verses eight through nine, he gives them the thinking agenda that will help them have the attitude of Christ.
The church is the spiritual body of Christ on earth. It is composed of every kind of members from A to Z, from every nation under heaven. No two of us are alike but we all have the same spiritual goal and that is to become like Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:11-17). To be transformed into His image (cf. Colossians 3:1, 2).
We must remember that God’s way of assessing the spiritual growth of a congregation isn’t limited to the seven measurements we noted in the beginning of this article. God judges the heart (cf. Mark 7:19-23). He judges our attitude and behavior toward one another, as well as toward our enemies. There are more than fifty “one another” Scriptures in the New Testament that provide the framework for assessing the spiritual status of a Christian as well as that of a congregation.
I encourage you to look up those one another Scriptures and intentionally use them as an assessment tool for measuring your own spiritual health, as well as encouraging each member to do the same. The above seven may be a starting place but not the ending place. God’s way is the right way!