Impact is the measure of a church’s effectiveness.
For the past fifty years numerical growth has tended to be the measuring stick that experts have used to measure the success of a church. When I first graduated from Bible college, I bought into this concept one hundred percent. The longer that I have been in ministry, the more problems that I see in this approach.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago I now measure a church not by its size but by its impact.
I can almost hear some of you asking: “Okay, but how does one measure impact?”
My answer is simply.
Impact is measured by the Great Commission.
Evangelism and the Great Commission
The most common mistake that people make when trying to understand the full significance of the Great Commission is to see it simply as a call to evangelism. There have been many sermons preached on the call for Christians to “Go” in obedience to the commission but the primary emphasis in these verses is not on “going” but rather on “making disciples.” The Great Commission is a directive from Jesus given to his disciples to go out and make more disciples.
For a church to be faithful to this call two things must be happening. The first is that there must be disciples already in the church because you can’t have disciples making disciples if there are not already disciples to carry out the commission. There is a need for churches to produce full fledged passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
The second thing that must be happening is that the disciples must be making other disciples. Evangelism does not define the Great Commission. It is a call to much more than just evangelism but it is a call to evangelism. If evangelism isn’t happening then the church is not producing fully functioning disciples of Jesus Christ. They are failing to carry out the Great Commission.
Growth in four directions
Becoming a disciple involves growth in four areas and the church needs to be committed to seeing growth in all four. The task of the church is not filling seats on a Sunday morning. It is not keeping people happy so that they remain active in our churches. It is not running programs that will meet the perceived needs of its members. It is not acquiring a nice building with all the comforts that people have come to expect in a modern church.
The challenge for the church is to produce passionate followers of Jesus Christ whose lives are being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
When that is happening in a church, the impact will be there for everyone to see.
The church is called to produce four-directional Christians who are seeing the impact of the Spirit in their own lives and are introducing that impact into the lives of others.
God has called people into a personal walk with himself through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. There are many ways in which God grows that relationship but the foundation upon which everything else in discipleship is built is a dynamic, powerful personal walk with God. It is through that relationship that our lives are transformed and the power of the Holy Spirit becomes evident in our lives.
The church is doing its job when the individual people who are a part of that church are experiencing that kind of growing personal relationship with the living God. This is far too important for the church just to assume that it is happening. The church needs to become involved in individual lives to ensure that it is happening.
The hope that every Christian has is that he or she some day is going to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. The final transformation will not happen until a person enters eternity but the process begins here in this life. God wants to transform you into a person who reflects the image of Jesus.
I look forward to the day when that becomes reality in my life. The battle with sin will be over and I won’t have to struggle any more. While that will be a great day the wonderful news is that I can experience some of that transformation right now. God wants to change who I am.
The task of the church is to be part of that transforming process in people’s lives. It is easy to get excited about the transformation that often occurs when a person becomes a Christian but change doesn’t just happen at the starting line. It is to happen all through the race. The church should be a place in which character transformation is happening all the time. That is part of what it means to be a place that produces disciples.
God knows that everyone of us needs help if we are going to become all that God wants us to be. For that reason God puts us in a church. He puts us in a family in which brothers and sisters can interact in our lives. He puts us in a body in which every member is dependent on the other members. He puts us in a building in which every stone depends on the other stones for strength and stability.
God puts his people into churches for more than just companionship and social gathering. He puts them there because he knows that they need other people. God has designed the church to be an essential element in people’s growth into discipleship.
God want his people to grow in their walk with him. He wants his people to reflect the character of Christ. He wants his people to be part of a local body of disciples. Each of these is an important part of what it means to be a disciple.
But he wants his disciples to move outside the safe confines of their churches and impact the world around them. God wants every church to join him in carrying out his mission in their community.
When impact happens
How does a church measure the impact that it is having? It is having an impact when it is producing disciples. It is producing disciples when all four of the transformations mentioned above are taking place. Anything else is a failure to carry out the Great Commission.
It isn’t size that is the measure of a church’s impact.
It isn’t a sense of family.
It isn’t popularity.
It isn’t buildings.
It is faithfulness to the Great Commission.
It is the production of passionate followers of Jesus who are contributing to a changed world.
The good news is that this kind of impact isn’t restricted to large churches with lots of people and programs. It can happen anywhere.