Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From Institutional Success to Influential Success in Acts

When it comes to measuring impact there is a the transition that occurs in Acts worth noting. In the early chapters success was measured in precise numbers that were added to the growing local church (Acts 2:41; 5:41). Later, the success was measured by how “the word (message/voice) of the Lord was being spread through the whole region (Acts 13:49).” Once the church transitioned to become a more organic decentralized movement success was measured by how many churches were growing stronger in faith and being added to the movement on a daily basis (Acts 16:5). Eventually, when it became a rapidly multiplying movement, success was measured by the fact that “all who were in Asia heard the word (message) of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:20).”

Did you catch that? It doesn’t just say that the word could be found in every place of Asia, as if The Gideons were there and left a free Bible in the nightstand—as incredible as that would be. It says that every person who was in Asia–Jew or Greek, man, woman or child–had heard God’s message. The Lord's voice was heard by everyone! Talk about reaching a people group! It doesn't tell us how many responded positively to that message, only that they heard it. In fact, we know that many responded very negatively (1 Cor. 16:9).

What I want us to see is that in a rapid exponentially building movement, measurement takes on a whole different form. As my good friend and coworker, Ed Waken likes to say, It is not how many conversions that are made, but how many conversations that people have. It is connections with the people that are measured. The results of those conversations are not measured because, frankly, that is not our success...we cannot control that nor take credit for it.

Unfortunately, we tend to measure what is outside of our realm of success. Perhaps we also tend to take credit for things that are not ours to claim. We are not responsible for our own salvation let alone the salvation of others...we never have been and we never will be. Our responsibility is to bring the presence, power and voice–in other words, influence–of our King to places where He is not seen, heard or felt. We need to let Him do what only He can do and let Him get credit for the results. Frankly, Jesus can do a whole lot more than just getting people to show up for an hour-long event once a week. His influence is over every area of one's life, which makes measurement with precise numbers seem trite and minimal in the end.

Influential success measures the presence and resulting impact of our being in the world and bringing the voice of our King. In a sense, even the rejection of that influence is a sign of our success. Institutional success needs objective proof that we have reached our stated objective as an organization. This is usually marked and measured by a business mind-set that feels the bottom line is the mark of an organization's success or failure. The problem is the kingdom is not meant to be a business or an organization. It is the reign of the King that is carried by ordinary people who are transformed into agents of extraordinary influence and (I believe) builds into the momentum of a movement. The kingdom brings change, it transforms someone's entire life...for their entire life. Such transformation is obvious and easily noted, but not quantitatively measured with statistical analysis. AND it is never complete, so success is not arrived at until the end.

We can measure process, or even progress, but not true success until the end. Because we all have the potential to fail and disqualify ourselves at any moment, and the only exam that actually counts is the final exam. Likewise, the only applause that really counts is the applause at the finish line. Any applause before that is encouraging, but not truly satisfying.

As we say in our movement, You don't graduate until there is a flat line on the monitor next to your bed. Until then you keep learning, growing and moving forward toward that point. If you are resuscitated, you've been held back a grade and you better try even harder to learn for the next opportunity to graduate. In other words, we need to finish well or die trying.

So influential success is measured moment to moment and is more about stories than numbers.

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