“How’s Your Church Doing?”

From Leadership Journal

God’s plans for your church may be bigger than you imagine
John Ortberg

Somebody asked me recently: “How’s the church going?”

How do you answer that?

Is it going well if you make the budget? Or fill a building? Or beat last year’s average attendance? Is it determined by comparing your congregation to how other churches are doing?

Of course the tricky part is figuring out how God thinks we’re doing. What does he want of us?

I can think of three possible gauges that might guide our response.


The first is what might be called “The Blessing Quotient.” How much has God blessed your church?

Jesus said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48b).

Would your church be in that category of those which have been given much? Start with the gift of freedom to gather and worship. Then think about the gifts of experience, relationship, education, financial resources, technological resources, creativity, and vocational backgrounds. Think about the networks and the learning opportunities and the sheer energy members of your church and staff possess. These are all gifts from God.

On a scale of 0 to OTC (Off the Charts), what would you say is the Blessing Quotient of your church? Do you fall closer to the “0” or the OTC end of the spectrum?


Next variable: again from God’s perspective, what would you say the Spiritual Need Quotient of your part of the world would be?

Think about the number of people who don’t know God, who aren’t part of a faith community. Think of the lonely people, the marginalized people, the elderly, the isolated, the confused, the recently divorced, the jilted, the misfits, the “successful” hedonists.

Think about God. He loves every human being alive with infinitely more love than I can imagine. When God sees broken families, kids on the streets, sexual confusion and promiscuity, rampant greed, cynicism and crime, people who know nothing of Jesus, people who ignore issues of sin and repentance, not because they’ve thought them through, but because they just live in a secularized culture …

How do you think God would assess the Spiritual Needs Quotient of your part of the world: scale of 0 to OTC?


One other variable: let’s call it the God Multiplier Quotient.

When people humbly offer what they have to God, he multiplies it. A little boy gives five loaves and two fish, and Jesus multiplies it to feed 5000. Jesus tells a parable about sowing seed: Some people … hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—30, 60, even a 100 times what was sown (Mark 4:20).

Would a merger be right for your congregation?

The real worth of human contributions is when they get caught up in the divine multiplier effect:

What level of multiplication does God want to use with your church? Is it 30, 60, 100? Pick a number.

Through God’s eyes

What do you think God aspires to for your church?

It’s not: “Last year plus 5 percent”

It’s not: “Hope they have nice services and full rooms.”

It’s not: To look like what the culture says a successful church looks like.”

No, it’s “Off the Charts,” and multiplied!

What does that look like?

We have a Founder and Savior and Leader who has already done the math. This question is not up to us. We don’t get to set the bar in a way that will make us feel more comfortable.

Who is your competition?

I was talking with somebody in our church recently about his work. He said: “Publicly we would talk about excellence and quality and service, but the reality was we would wake up every morning and think: ‘How can we put the competition out of business?’ We didn’t put this on our website. But we wanted to demoralize and defeat the competition”

It’s not other churches. Every church is our partner and ally. Thank God for Lutherans and Episcopalians and Methodists and Quakers and Congregationalists and Non-denominationalists. Jesus, our Founder and Leader, defined the competition: “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:16ff)

In other words, our competition is hell. Hell is at work wherever the will of God is defied.

Every time a little child is left unloved, unwanted, uneducated, unnoticed. Every time a marriage ends. Every time racial differences divide a street or a city or a church. Every time money gets worshipped or hoarded. Every time a lie gets told. Every time generations get separated. Every time a workplace becomes de-humanizing. When families get broken up. When virtue gets torn down. When sinful habits create a lives of shame or a culture of shamelessness. When faith gets undermined and hope gets lost and people get trashed. That’s when hell is prevailing.

It is not acceptable to Jesus that hell prevail. Your job is not to meet a budget, run a program, fill a building, or maintain the status quo. Your job is to put hell out of business.

That’s what it means for your church to do well.

John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.