Having worked at large churches and consulted churches of all sizes, I’ve become more and more aware of a particular word over the last few years: metrics. Generally speaking, metrics are the numbers that an organization tracks. Common church metrics are things like attendance, offering, small group participation, baptisms and membership. Regardless of the metrics each church tracks, there’s one we can’t afford to ignore: the number of bodies we leave behind us.
Every ministry leader is a human being. Human beings are flawed. Thus, every ministry leader is flawed. Sadly, our flaws wind up hurting people. At the church I lead we often say, “We’ll do anything short of sin to see people come to know Christ.” Usually the emphasis is on the latter part of that statement, but lately I’ve been thinking more about the first part: “…anything short of sin…”
In fulfilling our mission, let us remember that the ends only justify the means as long as we do not sin.
- Using people is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Ignoring the needy is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Making people feel abused is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Neglecting widows is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Treating staff like property is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Causing volunteers and/or staff to neglect family is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Neglecting our own families is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Crushing people’s spirits is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Treating human resources like resources rather than humans is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
- Condemning people is a sin that leaves bodies in our trail.
I’m not suggesting that we unhealthily avoid conflict, for that would lead to dramatic dysfunction. I’m not suggesting that we water-down the message of Scripture, for that would be heresy. I’m not suggesting that we make our ministries about pleasing people, for that would be idolatry. I’m not suggesting that our ministries should never offend people, for the gospel is offensive.
Sometimes people will be offended by our work. Sometimes they’ll storm away angry. Sometimes they’ll make unfair criticisms or jump to silly conclusions. Those things we can’t help. What we CAN avoid, though, is damaging people by our negligence, arrogance, ignorance, and selfishness.
Remembering the tragic numbers of bodies we’ve left behind requires internal strength, brutal self-honesty, and humility. If we’re the least bit in tune with God’s Spirit, this activity will sadden us. Yet it will simultaneously inspire us to prevent such casualties in the future.
So today, I encourage you to ask, “What’s my number? How many bodies have been left in my ministry trail?” I doubt this number will ever make it into any church leader’s metric spreadsheet. After all, it’s a discouraging number and hard to track. Nevertheless, let’s all make it a habit to look in the rear-view mirror from time to time, so we don’t needlessly hurt people in our efforts to reach them with the gospel. Let us never become so enamored with the exciting numbers in front of us that we forget the tragic numbers behind us.