Playing mini-golf with my family, I‘m the one who keeps score. No one else cares, and no one ever asks “Who won?” or “How did I do?” So, even though we are there just to be together and enjoy each other’s company, I like to keep score.
Keeping score must be pretty important, because we try to do it for just about everything. We need to know who is winning, and who is a success, and who is best.
Even when it comes to church.
Which church is the best?
Which pastor is the most successful?
How many members?
What is your attendance?
How many small groups?
How big is your building? (or buildings? or campuses?)
How big is your offering?
Even when we know that churches are about being together, enjoying each other’s company, learning to love one another, and making a difference in their community. Even though we are supposed to show people how to follow Jesus, and not really focus the attention on ourselves. And even though by just about every worldly standard, Jesus was not real great at all the measures we use to define ecclesiastical success - well, we keep on keeping score.
Because if we don’t, how will we know who is winning?
I wish I could figure out a way to measure significance - whether our church, or any of us, are making a difference that matters. I would like to be able to say that folks are growing closer to Jesus, becoming holier, and reflecting the love and grace of God everywhere they go. I would like to be able to say that the kingdom of God is more evident, and that people are seeing Jesus in the world because our little church is on State Road in a little corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, but I really can’t, because I have not figured out how to measure it.
So, we keep counting members, and attendance, and buildings, and offerings. And those with bigger numbers are considered successes, and the rest of us are ... well, you know what they say about winning being the only thing.
And even as I try to convince myself that all these numbers don’t matter, I feel like I am just trying to justify and rationalize. Maybe if I worked a little harder, prayed a little more fervently, and maybe if I bought more books and videos and went to another conference to hear one of those successful pastors ...