That is a quote from a new book by Gil Rendle, “Doing the Math of Mission.” All of us have been challenged to count and it is known as our Vital Signs, that every pastor is asked to record online. It involves numbers like worship attendance, small groups, etc.
There is some unease about it all. What does it really tell us? Does it help us to make disciples for the transformation of the world?
After reading the book, here is how I would image it. Vital Signs are indeed like the dashboard of a car. Those signs tell you if you need oil, if you have low tire pressure, if the engine is heating up, what speed you are going, your mpg, seat belt attachment. In essence they tell you about the vitality of your car. What they don’t tell you is where you are going. They don’t tell you if you are a good driver. They don’t tell you the purpose you have for driving. They only tell you in bare minimum about the vitality of your car.
Vital Signs for the church do the same. Is this church vital? Are people attending? Are they involved in some way in small groups or missions? They don’t tell you if you are making disciples for the transformation of the world. For that we need measurements.
Rendle gives the reader a good foundation in understanding counting and its importance and measurement and its difference and importance. “Counting in the church, by itself,” says Rendle, “is about resources and activities, not about purpose.” (p.93)
Rendle doesn’t leave us there, he goes on to provide the reader with resources, questions, and definitions of measurement. He asks the question: How do we measure that we are making disciples and transforming the world?
“Purpose,” he says, “stated in intentional outcomes, which require measurements instead of counts.” To do that, he offers questions that need to be asked:
- Who are we, now?
- Who is our neighbor, now?
- What does God call us to do, now?
- In order to address God’s call, what difference do we believe God has called us to make in the next 3-5 years.
- What would it look like in 3-5 years if we are faithful to and fruitful with our call?
- How will we do it?
- How will we measure our progress toward fulfilling our call?
- What have we learned from our experience?
- What reshaping or changing do we need to work on because of what we have learned? (p.86)
His call is to be descriptive about the answers to the question of disciple-making and transformation. What will the disciples look like? What will our communities look like?
We talk about it, we think about it, but rarely do we measure it or even know how to measure it. “Doing the Math of Mission” will move us beyond vitality to purpose and transformation.
If we stop at Vital Signs, we will only know that the “car” is capable of running.