Church Growth – Are You Scoring Points?

September 29, 2010
Beth Jones
Beth Jones

By Beth Jones

If you've ever played sports you know the goal, right? Score points! I played varsity basketball in high school and competitive tennis every summer; there was no confusion on my goal. Shoot baskets. Serve aces. Score points. If I wanted to win, I had to focus on scoring points.

In sports, it's obvious: Score touchdowns. Shoot goals. Make baskets. Hit a home run. Cross the finish line. Make birdie. There is no confusion on the goal in athletics — score! If you don't score — you don't win. Fans don't go to games to see the pretty uniforms, to inspect the quality of the golf clubs or to sit in bleachers. They go to cheer their team to victory. The score tells them how their team is doing.

Unfortunately, in the church world there is a bit of confusion on this subject. As a church, how do you keep score? How do you know if know if you are "winning"? How do you define "success"? When should the pastors, staff, volunteers and congregation celebrate — jump up and down, wave flags, whistle and rejoice? When they are winning — of course! This needs as crystal clear for a church as it is for any sports team.

How to Keep Score Thus, the problem! In church life, everyone doesn't always agree on how to keep score; on what a point looks like or on how to measure a win. People use different scoreboards for church. Some rack up points when they get to spend personal time with the pastor; others see winning as attending services, wearing the right clothes or memorizing verses.

Still, others feel victory is measured by the Fica tree count, hours prayed, number of favorite songs sung. Some people give extra points for deep Bible studies, singles groups, a "mighty move", a men's fellowship or a mother-daughter tea. Still others keep score by mission trips taken, number of crosses in church or size of conferences hosted — you name it. Here's the kicker ... all these things are wonderful, it's just that they're not the primary way we score points and win.

This is huge! If we don't agree on how to keep score and win; then we're set up for disillusionment, disappointment, frustration and worse yet: faking it! Pretending to win, when we're actually losing! Ever wonder why so many believers these days seem to be self-absorbed, disinterested, unmotivated, offended, apathetic and even contrary to the life of their church? Perhaps they don't know how to score points to really win?

That's why it's so important for us to align our scoring system with His.

The big question is: How does Jesus keep score?

Jesus told us how to measure wins in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ... (NKJV)

He celebrated a victory in Luke 15:6:

Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep! (The Message)

We score when we reach the lost and make disciples — and this is worth celebrating! When lost, irreligious, unbelieving, seekers come to church and hear the Word, get saved and tell others — we score points. When the preacher-preaches, the worshippers-worship, the drummer-drums, the ushers-usher, the servers-serve and Joe Unbeliever gets touched by the real Jesus — that is a serious victory! The crowd should go wild!

Connecting With the Culture I have to tell you — it's happening in our church and we are raising the roof with great joy! It wasn't always that way. My husband and I have pioneered Kalamazoo Valley Family Church fifteen years ago. We pedaled as fast as we knew how for the first eight years and we saw some good fruit, but to be honest; we got tired of low scoring games. Our church had become so "same old-same old" — even we were bored with it!

Although we thought our church was pretty "contemporary", one day we got honest and admitted we were not connecting with the culture we were supposed to "seek and save." I didn't invite my unsaved friends to church for years because I knew that everything about our church was so irrelevant to them. They absolutely wouldn't "get it" — the lingo, the dress, the songs, the decor. We were about a decade behind. I knew they would be under-whelmed, bored and immediately disconnected. We had a great church for believers; but my unbelieving friends were in a different orbit.

Over the past several years, we've been more intentional about scoring than ever — reaching the lost and making disciples. We've had to change our paradigm ... not our message. We've have to be more culturally relevant without compromising the Word of faith. Yes, we've changed a lot — our methods, our dress, our verbiage, our decor, and our music — but not the message. It's working!

However, I have to tell you everyone on the "team" was not thrilled with the changes. We lost over 100 people within a 6 month period. Our score was moving backwards! So, what did we do? We kept at it and within another 6 months period and we gained over 700 people as a result. Net score: 600.

Our most recent scoreboard showed us we're still scoring, but there's a lot of work yet to do to win our county! A recent survey gave us something to celebrate and motivation to score more points! Prior to attending our church, 33% were un-churched and lost; another 32% were churched, but backslidden. Since they've started attending our church, 22% have gotten born-again; 13% have been healed; 41% have been filled with the Spirit; 26% say they've gotten "on fire" for the Lord; and 50% tell us they are prospering in the financial and relational areas of their life. We see points on the scoreboard. However, our work here is not done.

Winning Where We Are Where I live, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan — population: 225,000 — there are 175,000 un-churched people. Over 2000 people attend our church each weekend, which means we only have to reach 173,000 more people to win! To some, 2000 sounds impressive, to us it's a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who are still lost in our county. That means we need to keep scoring points. How about you???Perhaps you wonder, "What about the believers? Don't they need to be fed?" Don't get me wrong, we love teaching believers the Word, seeing them mature and get a grip on the basics. It's thrilling. However, there is one caveat. If we are not intentional about turning believers into reproductive disciples who can score points; we end up creating Christian consumers, holy spectators and pew warmers who complain about loud music, crowded parking lots and young people with tattoos and lip rings.

The scoreboard doesn't lie. Sometimes our websites can lie; our brochures can lie and we can even lie to ourselves. I don't know about you, but I don't want to fake it. I don't want to pretend our church is scoring points and winning games when we're just playing. It's a big question: Are we scoring points?

We keep score by winning the lost and making disciples! When you win, we plan to raise the roof and lead the parade with our banners. May all your wishes come true! (Psalm 20:5 The Message)