I sometimes think that churches have more politics than the government. Many churches try to accommodate every person with his or her own wishes. These churches will gravitate toward the whine of any disgruntled member and make a rule that will suit this disgruntled one. This rule will become a burden to everyone else. Many churches court the rich so that they can get contributions. They seek the power of the majority and tell their stories to unsuspecting members who believe their tales of bravery and miraculous feats. They define success in every endeavor by drawing a bullseye around anything they hit.
A church is successful when it wins people to Jesus Christ and grows these people to spiritual maturity. These mature Christians bear fruit that is lasting. This fruit is found in their own characters and those whom they have won to Christ and grown to spiritual maturity. The church was and is intended to be a multiplying force. Jesus proved this by choosing twelve disciples who would "do greater things" than He did. He did not mean their actions would be greater in individual power but greater in the scope of people He personally was able to affect. Those He discipled turned the world upside down.
Many churches define success by the number of people who show up at any given event. It is impressive to have a room full. Many of these capitalize on this definition by inflating the numbers in attendance. I remember the story of the country preacher whose church never ran over seventy-five on Easter. When asked how many were in attendance on an Easter he replied, "I personally believe we had some fewer than 5,000!"
I know a church who kept reporting over a 1,000 people at each of the Christmas musicals. They increased the number of performances to and reported over 5,000 people in attendance. One of the church staff measured the pews and found that it was impossible to get more than 750 in their sanctuary at one time. Seats along the edges were not used because the set prevented people from seeing the performance. Yet, they had the audacity to report over 1,000 in each attendance. It was easy to see that success was defined by the number 1,000.
Some churches have a special emphasis and try to make that their standard. For instance, they will have a high attendance Sunday, take a picture of that and report this attendance as a typical Sunday. This hurts later generations who believe this malarky. They can never come to former grandeur the church experienced. Their success was in the past when Reverend Gimmick Per Week was pastor. They define success as getting back to doing things the way they used to.
Churches will talk about those who participate rather than those they lost. For example, I have heard of churches who will suspend their worship services so that they members can participate in something else. They may have taken the congregation on a retreat and met by the lake or they have put everyone on mission in the community. They report their success by telling of all that were there. They don't note that they would have had twice as many people if they had a regular worship service on that Sunday. They don't speak of those who were visitors who came to find an empty building. They look only at the good feelings or the publicity that this action generated. They don't look at the opportunity lost.
Some church define success by activity. The show how full their calendars are and say they are successful. They have a program for everything. They have an event every day and night. They fill up their congregations lives with no other purpose than to keep them busy. Their members have a notebook for every fruit of the Spirit. They also have one for evangelism, fellowship, missions, discipleship and worship. They have so many programs some of the members have been through a couple to them twice without realizing they had gone through them once. It all gets so mixed up.
The questions that churches need to ask are: Are we reaching new people or are we content with stealing members from other churches? Are we seeing more people serve to help our church grow or are we seeing more people attend without any purpose in serving? Are we seeing the fruit of the Spirit in our people's lives or are we seeing them remain just as they were when we first met them?
These are the questions that define success.