Mark van den Steenhoven

The facts are in the figures?

The “facts are in the figures” was my former manager’s favourite maxim and we heard this mantra at Tandem Computers on a daily basis.  This was no surprise as his previous employment was with the Dutch equivalent of the Office for National Statistics. In those days I was part of the Financial Department and responsible for all kind of reports. As you probably can imagine it's quite easy to measure how successful you are based on financial information. In the end what we all want to know is what is the return on our efforts.

In our spiritual life it is the same. We want to see a return for all that we invest. There are countless  biblical examples of  fruitfulness,  growth, multiplication and counting numbers. Based on this, its obvious that measuring is biblical.But, the question is “What should I be measuring?”

When we started CrossPoint (a new church we founded in 2001) we measured the number of visitors. I remember how pleased we were when more people visited our Sunday service than had come the week before. Based on this criteria some Sundays were more successful than others.
These days I see success from a different perspective. What changed my viewpoint ? Jesus did. To be more exact, the way He discipled people.

He invested most of His time in a small number of people. What makes me think that I can disciple more people than He did? Why do I believe that I can disciple 100, 250 or even 500? And what makes me think I can do that in a gathering of, let's say, 1,5 hours once a week where everybody is present?

During the last  couple of years I’ve become increasingly convicted that I shouldn't focus on numbers anymore, instead I need to focus on quality. But I don't always find this easy because I can quickly get discouraged. On one hand  I lose my focus  because of my chronic counting habit. On the other hand because I find myself bombarded again by numbers. Like the email I received the other week, with the invitation to attend a conference with keynote speaker church leader 'X' who leads a church of 100.000 (!) people. In this regard our church culture isn't helping me to focus on quality!

Last year, Jacolien and I started a Missional Household along with Sharon Earl. We are a group of people who have chosen to live in the same house with the purpose of living out a missional life together. Literally we are a 'family on Mission'.
At this moment in time we are discipling two young adults. We do 'Life-on-life' discipleship based on a rythmn of UP-IN-OUT, where mission isn't an activity, but just part of our ordinary daily  life together. This life of  UP-IN-OUT needs to be simple so that anyone can adopt it.

It wont take long to count our numbers! However, if we look at quality there is more to see. We  can already see the first fruit. We see disciples growing in:
UP- listening to God, thankfulness, a life of dependence , love for the word and leadership in prayer and worship,
IN -  praying for each other and others, generosity, service and taking responsibility for being a blessing to each other,
OUT -  taking responsibility for blessing our street and in making friends with our many neighbours who don't know Jesus yet.

Of course my desire is to see many many people saved, but I believe that fruit that will last is the result of quality discipleship.

What do you measure? What is holding you back from focusing on quality growth? I'd like to encourage you. Maybe you only have a couple of people to invest in. Go for it. Continue doing what God has called you to do and with the people He has given you. Don't compare yourself with others and don't be driven mad by numbers! After all Jesus started only with 12 (minus 1).


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