Church metrics are useful – if they are metrics that matter. In an earlier post on this subject Dr. Alan Cole asserted that metrics not based on strategy are meaningless. An oft misunderstood Bible verse favors his argument.
Church metrics: is God about the numbers?
Church growth advocates and pastors of large churches love Acts 2:41. It is the refuge of ill-considered ideas on “why numbers matter to God.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Somebody counted noses that day. They were recorded and filed away. Luke uncovered the record during his research for his two-volume work.
Seems like an open and shut case for church metrics, right?
Only if we ignore Greek syntax and Luke’s literary art.
Good church metrics are about the right numbers
The crucial passage, Acts 2:41-47, starts with the Greek particle Î¼ÎµÎ½ in verse 41. It modifies “baptized and added”. It also anchors a chain of clauses that all start with the Greek particle Î´Îµ. The whole thing, from 41 to 47, is a unified “point – counterpoint” explanation of the phrase “were baptized and added.”
We’re familiar with counterpoint/point structures in English. We use them all the time.
If I ask my wife about my sermon she may say, “Most of it was good.” That ominous little “most” is the counterpoint. It means a shoe is about to drop.
This was how the Greek particle Î¼ÎµÎ½ functioned – in some cases – when it appears with the Î´Îµ.1 It told the reader that what follows explains what was just said. The long string of Î´Îµ clauses (verses 42-47) breaks the information into manageable bits. But everything in verses 42-47 connects back to verse 41, to the Î¼ÎµÎ½ and the two verbs it modifies.
Church metrics should measure disciples, not conversions
Here’s the punchline. Verses 42-47 explain what Luke meant by saying 3,000 were baptized and added that day.
3,000 isn’t the number of converts.
3,000 isn’t the number in attendance.
3,000 is the number who became mature disciples by walking in “the Way.”
That is what Jesus told us to do in his absence.
That is what Luke measured.
Church metrics that matter
Acts 2:41 is an example of church metrics that matter. Meaningful church metrics tell us how we’re doing in executing our strategy as we move toward our mission.
The primitive church’s mission was to make disciples. Its strategy was to preach the gospel to all and then to baptize and teach those who believed. The net result their strategy intended to produce was disciples. That is what they measured.
Interim pastor, please use church metrics that matter
As an interim pastor you have a unique opportunity to teach the church about metrics that matter. If the church is measuring attendance and income they’re writing down numbers that mean nothing.
What matters is, are we making disciples? The metrics that answer that question are the only ones that matter.
- I am a Greek freak. I know I’m oversimplifying here.