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March 15, 2003
Column #1,124

(second of two parts)

How Does Your Church Measure Success?

     How does your church measure success? Is it the old ABC's: Attendance, Building, Cash? A few years ago, Bob Buford, a businessman, questioned that yardstick with Pastor Randy Frazee of the growing Pantego Bible Church now in Fort Worth. 

     "Those are the same yardsticks that businesses use. If you say your mission is to see people become followers of Christ, then you have to give me measuring points, so your people can develop a feedback system to see whether you are making progress," Buford said.

     Galatians 5:22 defines Christian character as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." A successful church should be growing those  qualities in its people. To measure them, Pantego developed a series of questions, to measure "10 Core Virtues." And it encouraged its members to mark on a six point scale whether the virtue applies to them, ranging from "Not at all" to "Applies completely." For example:

     1. I control my tongue.
     2. God's grace enables me to forgive people who have hurt me.
     3. God calls me to be involved in the lives of the poor and suffering. 

However, Core Virtues grow out of 10 Core Beliefs and 10 Core Practices such as:

     1. I exist to know, love and serve God.
     2. I believe God is involved in and cares about my daily life.
     3. I regularly study the Bible to find direction for my life.
     4. I seek to grow closer to God by listening to Him in prayer.

     George Gallup Jr. was so impressed with these statements that he helped refine them and released them in America's first "Spiritual State of the Union," as I reported last week. (For a full list, see http://www.pantego.org.)

     Pantego encourages every church member to measure these 30 Core Competencies in their life on an annual basis by taking a "Christian Life Profile" (CLP) in a challenging way. First, each person measures himself, and then asks three people who know him to give their own assessments.

     Dr. Jim Hilliard, an orthopedic surgeon, "could not see a whole lot of value" in the CLP before taking it, but quickly realized "it helped me to identify my shortcomings." His wife, son and nurse all pointed out "a glaring lack of gentleness in the way I deal with people," he confesses. "It was a total surprise. Their comments hurt my feelings."

     However, part of the exercise is to develop a "Personal Plan for Spiritual Growth." To help him grow in gentleness, Dr. Hilliard read Larry Crabb's book, "The Marriage Builder." His wife, Tamara, immediately saw her husband "making a real effort." Now she says, "He is a lot more careful to think before he speaks." 

     Tamara was "very nervous" about taking the CLP. She found her major shortcoming was a lack of Bible study. She joined a Bible study group, and found it so rewarding she now hosts the group in her home. "It has caused me to grow. I am grateful."

     Richard Horton is another man who scored low on gentleness. In addition to softening his hard-edged approach which helped him build a construction company, he has made his firm more compassionate: "We look for causes we support financially and with our own people." Each Friday begins with a morning prayer group. No one has to come, but even a Muslim does so.

     He also urged his church's small group to take turns at a night shelter for the homeless, at Mission Arlington, which gives clothes to the poor. At Christmas they not only visit nursing homes to sing carols, but visit widows to deliver a "widow's basket" of goodies. All children as well as adults participate.

     When Pantego first started measuring Core Competencies, only 24 percent of church members were doing anything to serve the poor or hurting. Now over 60 percent do so.

     In his book, "The Connecting Church," Randy Frazee writes, "It is important to note that the thrust of the spiritual life in Christ is not to pursue our own individual happiness and fulfillment. Rather, we give ourselves to the pursuit of loving God and helping others."

     The entire sermon schedule is focused on the 30 Core Competencies to equip people in the basics of the Christian life. In fact, people go from worship to "Community Groups," formerly called Sunday School, where all ages study the same Scripture cited in the sermon. And 150 home groups take it to a more practical level. 

     Why doesn't your church help its members develop specific Christian virtues?

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