I once heard pastor and author Andy Stanley say that there are two simple, yet important questions for any organization to answer: “What business are we in?” and “How’s business?” His point: identifying what you’ve set out to do and evaluating the results is a great way to measure how much (or how little) you’re growing.
Measurables are important regardless of what line of work you’re in. If you’re in the business world or work in the marketplace, this should be a no-brainer. How are sales? Are costs down? How did we do this quarter compared to the last one? Sales reports and customer feedback can be the measuring sticks that give us an idea of where we stand when it comes to the line of work we’re in.
One of the greatest tensions of working in ministry is how difficult in can be to measure results. I preached a message on investing our lives in what matters last May and found myself trying to answer those same questions that Andy asked. Pretty simple, right? We’re a church, so we’re in the... church business? Next time you’re out and about on the streets, try pulling a random stranger aside and ask them to define “church business.” OK, maybe it wasn’t so simple after all.
Just to make a tough question even more complex, what then is our measuring stick when it comes to evaluating our own personal faith journey? If I am really growing in my faith, knowledge, and understanding of Christ, how in the world would I begin to measure that? Is it how much time I’m reading the Bible? How long my prayer or quiet time lasts? Church attendance? Amount of swear words I’m using on Interstate 10 during rush hour?
Yes, to all of it.
However, while all of those things can be evidence of our lives being changed by God’s love and grace, they’re not the whole package when it comes to determining whether or not I’m growing. Why? Because longer prayers, perfect church attendance, and not swearing at the guy who cut you off doesn’t always mean your heart is being transformed.
The author of 1 John gives us such a simple, yet powerful glimpse into who God is. The main word he uses to describe God? “Love.” He says, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” (1 John 4:16-17). Did you catch that? Houston — we have a measurable! Love.
We can be sure that the greatest and most noticeable by-product of our faith moving forward is love. Our love for God and our love for others grows as we begin to see and understand who God is and what He has done for us. Isn’t that what we just read from 1 John? That “as we live in God, our love grows more perfect?” Our God is love. And as we grow IN Him, it’s — dare I say it — impossible for us not to grow in our ability and capacity to love.
So, after all that talk about business and how it’s going, it’s time to answer the question. We’re in the business of (my apologies in advance for the weird, cheesy, semi-Marvin Gaye sounding answer) LOVE. The harder question: How’s business? My prayer for all of us is that as we continue our journey moving closer and closer to Christ, we would be known for one thing — those people who love others like crazy.
• Colin Noonan is the director of youth ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. He loves his family, his students, and Ohio State football. Keep the conversation going with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.