Evaluating Ministry

Last night I read a section from D.A. Carson’s book The Cross and Christian Ministry:

It is possible to “build the church” with such shoddy materials that at the last day you have nothing to show for your labor. People may come, feel “helped,” join in corporate worship, serve on committees, teach Sunday school classes, bring their friends, enjoy “fellowship,” raise funds, participate in counseling sessions and self-help groups, but still not really know the Lord. If the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning more adherents than converts. Not for a moment am I suggesting that, say, managerial skills are unnecessary, or that basic people skills are merely optional. But the fundamental nonnegotiable, that without which the church is no longer the church, is the gospel, God’s “folly,” Jesus Christ and him crucified.

This quote haunts me. I have dozens of books on my shelf that focus on getting people to come, join, and feel helped. Most of these books talk about managerial, leadership, and people skills. Very few of them talk about the cross the same way that Paul did as the center of ministry. At best they assume a cross-centered focus, but here’s the thing: we can’t assume this anymore. It has to be clear.

I attended a seminar a few weeks back on measuring a church’s effectiveness. It wasn’t all bad, but very little of it measured the church in light of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, which in the end will be the only evaluation that matters.

I’m haunted by this because it’s so central and yet so easily missed. I speak from my own experience. We need growing and effective churches, but the place to begin is not with technique but with the cross.

(By the way, a book that captures this well is From Embers to a Flame, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.)

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada