When Billy Beane became the general manager of the Oakland Athletics in October of 1997, he inherited an iconic organization that had lost its glimmer and now found itself in the shadows of powerhouse competition with bigger talent and pocketbooks. His outside-the-box strategy was criticized by baseball traditionalists, but his commitment to analyze metrics and view the game from a different perspective proved effective.
The point is not to debate the traditional baseball strategy with modern metric philosophy. Rather, Billy Beane’s courage shows the value for the church to consider a shift in its metric. Nickels and noses have historically been the measurement of success in church life. The totals in giving, attendance, and baptism have long been the standard.
DECLINE IN METRICS
According to Christianity Today, “In 2018, baptisms dipped by 3 percent, not as dramatic as the previous year when they were down 9 percent. Overall, Southern Baptists’ namesake practice has reached a historic low of 246,000 baptisms a year—around how many people were dunked by the denomination back in the 1940s, when it was less than half its current size.” Many would blame this decline on the decrease in congregations who accurately self-report. While there is validity to the struggle for annual church reporting, this may be an opportunity to shift our focus.
In Acts, Paul models for us a continued and faithful commitment to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and boldness to preach the truth of Christ and express hope that can only be found in Him. This leads me to wonder if we should be more focused on Gospel conversations than attendance.
Don’t misunderstand. Measuring giving, attendance, and baptism have value and create critical moments of celebration. However, if we equipped and challenged the people of God to live out the Gospel every day and have the boldness to speak His name in their homes and the marketplace, I believe the byproduct would be an increase in giving, attendance, and baptism.
John 12:32 reminds us that our commitment to lift up Christ will allow Him to do what only He can do.