Weather Report JULY 2018

After the crucifixion and resurrection, the evangelist John records Jesus standing on the beach newly risen from the dead. Simon Peter had announced plans to go fishing; others tagged along. A particular bad night of fishing changed with some casting instructions from the Lord. The evangelist leaves us with the image of a boat dragging the net teeming with fish across the Sea of Tiberias.
Ashore, the disciples did what fisherman do – they counted. Odd, perhaps, given the circumstance; this is the only reported resurrection in history. There have been resuscitations, but no one has ever come back from the dead to never die again. Squatted down by that impressive, writhing fish pile, they began counting, ‘one, two, three, four’ all the way to a hundred and fifty three, while the risen Lord patiently looked on. Fishermen live by the rule: “If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count.”
But what about those settings where arithmetic does not count? Gil Rendle works with the Methodist Churches of Texas. In his assessable book titled Doing The Math Of Mission he urges congregations to learn to differentiate between counting and measuring. He observes that counting often entails conversations about “How much?” In contrast, measuring directs attention to change. The guiding question becomes “How far?” Most churches are quite adept at the former, but less so at the latter.
Each local congregation must discover the metrics it will use to describe what they are called to produce. It is very likely the dashboard will consist of a mixture of countables and measurable. Like the disciple’s counting out 153 fish, most churches are efficient with numbers and reports. But when it comes to what we believe a given church is called to produce, “measuring is what we need to learn how to do with our outcomes,” to quote Rendle.1
The June meeting of the deacons began with an exercise. I asked everyone present to name something they count. I then asked them to name something they measure. Later in that meeting I led a conversation around how Immanuel Baptist Church measures her progress toward achieving outcomes. Our vision statement indicates that we believe we are called to “practice the radical, compassionate discipleship taught by Jesus Christ.” What are we actually trying to make different over the next three to five years?
The local church has an important challenge: reconfigure the dashboard. The metrics that served the church well in the past require our attention. We need to count. Counting reveals how many people were in worship and how much money was received in the offering. But we should not attempt to count the things we cannot put our fingers on. One example would be the difference a church is trying to make in the world. Again Rendle teaches us when he writes, “Measuring relates not so much to what is,  but rather what could be. It is more about call, purpose and possibility.”2 
As a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned the value of measuring. This surely came in to use when he began his ministry. When it came to quantifying the difference he believed he was called to make, he was richly descriptive in a report he sent to John the Baptist. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.”3   —Steven
 
 1Rendle, Gil. Doing The Math Of Mission. P.29.
 2Rendle, Gil. Ibid. P.17.
 3Luke 7.22.