How do we measure success as churches? Generally, we measure success the same way the rest of our society does: How many people show up? How big is your budget? How does your facility look? I’ve heard it refurred to as “bodies, bucks, and buildings.” But is that how God measures success?
The story of the Prodigal Son is a wonderful reminder that God doesn’t measure success the same way we do. God doesn’t measure our accomplishments or outcomes. What matters to God is simply the reality that we belong to him. God would say to me, “Markus, the only thing that matters is the fact that you are my beloved. On you may favor rests.
In this episode, Markus discusses the voice of the “the distant country” that tells us we need to prove ourselves, and the voice of the Father who says simply, “You are my beloved.”
THIS EPISODE’S HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
- This is based on the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24.
- This part of the story takes place in two places: home and the distant country.
- Home wasn’t just the place where he lived; it’s the place where he was loved.
- The voice of the distant country says, “Show us what you’ve got. Prove yourself.”
- We listen to the voice of the distant country, too.
- For churches, the voice of the distant country is expressed in what I call self-preservation and self-propagation.
- Declining churches are in danger of falling into the trap of self-preservation mode.
- Growing churches are in danger of falling into the trap of self-propagation mode.
- To declining churches, the distant country says, “What’s wrong with you?”
- To growing churches, the distant country says, “Look at you! You’re something!”
- As individuals, every time I try to show how successful I am, how educated I am, how theologically astute I am, I am responding to the voice of the distant country.
- The voice of the distant country sounds different for each person.
- What does returning home look like?
- For churches, it means returning to faithfulness. In other words, making faithfulness the number one measure of success (as opposed to measuring success based on how many people show).
- God isn’t interested in having a bunch of churches that are a little bit bigger next year than they are this year.
- Returning home also involves returning to the mission of God, to bring healing and wholeness—shalom—to the world.
- You don’t have to be a big, well-resourced church to participate in the mission of God.
- For individuals, what does it mean to return home.
- It means no longer listening to the voice that says, “Show us what you’ve got.”
- It means listening to voice of the Father that simply says, “You are my beloved, on you my favor rests. Regardless of what you’ve accomplished.”
- God doesn’t celebrate because of what we accomplish or because of how successful we are.
- What God celebrates is when we begin to listen to the voice of the Father, who says, “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests.”
- The only greatness that matters is the greatness of God’s love for us.
- Any time we try to find love and acceptance anywhere other than with our Father, that’s the distant country.
RELEVANT RESOURCES AND LINKS
- Books mentioned
- Markus Watson