Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Presence-Driven Church Doesn't Worship Metrics

Chair, in my backyard, on the river

Os Guinness's Renaissance is, among other things, a diatribe against the Church Growth Movement and its quantification of Christianity. The American Consumer Church is engaged in metric-olatry. As Guinness shows, the most important things in life and in God's kingdom cannot be measured by numbers. There are many things numbers simply cannot do.

Guinness writes:

"Metrics can record the frequency of our church attendance, the regularity of our Bible reading and the exact amount of our tithing, but they can never gauge the genuineness of any of them, or whether they are any better than “the noise of the solemn assemblies” against which the prophets fulminated." 

(Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, p. 43)

The American utilitarian ethic, which quantifies goodness as that which gives the most people the most pleasure most of the time, leads to the legalization of any practice. Opinion polls determine ethics, while saying nothing about whether these opinions are really right or wrong, good or bad. Guinness writes:

"Legalization of any practice, and then its normalization through numbers, need never mean a revaluation of what we know to be wrong because God says so, simply because the majority opinion now holds it to be right. Ten million ignorant assertions, even when magnified and accelerated in a hundred million tweets and “likes,” still never add up to truth or wisdom, or what is right and good." (Ib.)

Metrics cannot determine what is right and what is good. But many Western Christians, Guinness writes, have succumbed to the worship of numbers. This has developed...

  • Christians with an eye for the quantitative rather than the qualitative, 
  • for externals rather than inner reality, 
  • for performance rather than relationship, 
  • for the shallow rather than the deep, 
  • for evangelism in terms of the number of “decisions” rather than discipleship and growth in character, 
  • for the bandwagon rather than the Bible, 
  • for popularity rather than principle, 
  • and with a greater sensitivity to horizontal pressure than to vertical authority. (Ib., 44)
"51% now believe" has trumped "Thus says the Lord." Guinness writes:

"The result is a church befuddled over the difference between success and faithfulness, hesitant to buck the going trends, fearful to stick her neck out and find herself in the minority, and reluctant to risk the loneliness of pursuing the true and the excellent regardless of all outcomes—in short, a church fatally weakened because worldly." (Ib.)

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church; and