A few months after we started New Song Church, I began to pray about how our little church could play a part in Jesus’ Acts 1:8 vision for the church. How could a young church like ours play a part in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world?
Fast-forward 20 years, and God has done exceedingly abundantly above what we could ask or imagine. By His grace, New Song has played a measurable part in planting 163,000 churches around the world. Those 163,000 churches have seen over 7 million come to Christ.
I recently asked myself, “How did this happen?”
Revving up the gospel ... on Harleys
How to calculate your church’s true missional impact
A friend of mine who pastors a church of 120 people in a town of 1,000 recently told me about a strange encounter he had with a megachurch pastor in another area about what constitutes a megachurch. The megachurch pastor led a church of 10,000 in a town of 600,000 and told my friend that if your church was reaching at least 1 percent of the population of your town, then you were leading a megachurch.
His assertion made my friend wonder if this was really true or was it just faulty logic. He asked this pastor how he would classify a church that was reaching 12 percent of the town’s population. The pastor was stunned.
“Who is doing that?” he asked.
“Our church is consistently running 120 people in a small town of 1,000!” my friend responded. To which the megachurch pastor quickly replied, “Yes, but that’s a different model .”
Beyond Raw Numbers
In some ways, the megachurch pastor was right. Few people would argue that pastoring 120 people is different from pastoring 12,000 people. And we’d all say that leading a church in a fast-growing suburb is significantly different from leading one in a rural community or complex downtown urban setting. So in some ways comparing the two ministry contexts is apples and oranges. They are different.
But in other ways the megachurch pastor was dead wrong. From the perspective of the people reached and actual community impact, reaching 12 percent of a small town offers a much greater result then reaching 1 percent of a larger city, regardless of the raw numbers’ magnitude.
This “percentage of impact” number might be a strategic and effective tool to help us equalize our understanding of the missional impact of a church and get away from what I think is a shortsighted idea that the only factor that really matters is how many people gather in one place at one time.
The “percentage of impact” number is simply the number of people attending the church compared to the number of people in the local community. When you consider this formula, a church of 120 is a significant force in a small community of 1,000. I won’t argue with the idea that a church of 12,000 is certainly impressive. But it’s much less of a force in a community of 600,000. To be equal in percentage of impact to the church of 120 in a town of 1,000, the megachurch would need to be a church of 72,000 attendees.
Right or wrong, the perception in the American church world is that, when everything is said and done, the more people you have listening to you each Sunday/weekend, the greater leader you are. This idea that quantity is always better is an American idea, not a kingdom idea. America is a great nation, but American values don’t always synch up well with kingdom values.
Kingdom is about impact, and in the kingdom, your percentage of impact number means more than how many you have in the room at the weekly worship gathering.
Other kingdom measurements that apply regardless of the size of the gathering are metrics such as:
These metrics actually tell you something about how well your church is tracking with the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost.
When you set out to plant a new church or you’re leading an existing one, make sure you measure the things that matter. If you focus on actions and activities that increase your missional impact, you won’t have to worry about how many people show up to hear you speak. The crowd will increase as you stay focused on the mission of Jesus.
Steve Pike serves as national director for the Church Multiplication Network, which collaborates with church multipliers to effectively equip, strategically fund and innovatively network new faith communities in America. Follow him on Twitter @StevenPike.
Note: The following is an excerpt from Jack W. Hayford’s recent book, Sharpening Your Leading Edge: Moving From Methods to Mindset. It is the first of a two-part series.
Within hours following the 9-11 events in New York and Washington and through the following two weeks, I served, as did others, in a bittersweet task. It was bitter by reason of the need, and sweet by reason of the opportunity to offer healing truth and prayer. Doors opened across our nation to speak into the lives of many—some only seeking comfort, others seeking some meaning in their torment amid the apparently meaningless tragedy.
I was invited to nearly a dozen radio and TV venues—local, regional and national. Network reporters and talk-show hosts ask hard questions in such moments. I was glad that, in most cases, they were sensitive enough not to require “sound bite”-size answers.
We have a moral responsibility to engage the largest humanitarian crisis in history
The AIDS pandemic remains today as the largest humanitarian crisis in history, and the church has a moral responsibility to become engaged. Every church, whether large and affluent or small with little in the way of financial resources, can make a significant impact in its community. Here are five practical steps to launch an HIV/AIDS ministry, based on the acrostic START.
Seek support from the pastors, elders or deacons of your church. Church leadership must understand why it is important to begin this ministry. Without their support, the ministry probably won’t succeed. Inform the leadership team about the number of people infected and affected—locally and globally—and about the reasons the church is best positioned to care for people who are HIV-positive. Write a purpose statement that clearly explains the aim of this ministry and how it fits within the scope of the church’s overall vision.
Talk about scriptural foundations for this with the congregation. Human emotion is insufficient as a rationale for beginning an HIV/AIDS ministry. It must rest on a scriptural foundation.