Dallas Willard's interview on measuring spiritual growth among Jesus-followers is prophetic and subversive. This is so good I feel like momentarily abandoning my Finnish introverted roots and emitting primal screams. Here are some of the things Willard says:
- Many churches measure the wrong things, "like attendance and giving." Instead, "we should be looking at more fundamental things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under the thumb of their lusts."
- Why don't churches measure spiritual effectiveness by these things? Because these qualities are "not worth bragging about." "We'd rather focus on institutional measures of success." (Welcome to The Church Of Many Boasts.)
- Not every Christian wants to be assessed by these spiritual things. Just take me to the fair trade coffee bar adjacent to the lobby and say more about the god of who serves me like a butler. (For more on the popularity of the Butler God see here.)
- Many people in today's American church are suffering, especially pastors and their families, because "much of North America and Europe has bought into a version of Christianity that does not include life in the kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are trying to work a system that doesn't work. Without transformation within the church, pastors are the ones who get beat up. That is why there is a constant flood of them out of the pastorate. But they are not the only ones. New people are entering the church, but a lot are also leaving. Disappointed Christians fill the landscape because we've not taken discipleship seriously." (Attention Pastors and Church Leaders: BEGIN WITH TEACHING YOUR PEOPLE HOW TO ABIDE IN CHRIST. Stay there for the rest of your ministering lives.)
- Churches, and Jesus-followers, must change their definition of "success."
"They need to have a vision of success rooted in spiritual terms, determined by the vitality of a pastor's own spiritual life and his capacity to pass that on to others. When pastors don't have rich spiritual lives with Christ, they become victimized by other models of success—models conveyed to them by their training, by their experience in the church, or just by our culture. They begin to think their job is managing a set of ministry activities and success is about getting more people to engage those activities. Pastors, and those they lead, need to be set free from that belief."