That which gets measured, gets done. I’ve said this, coached others based upon it, and managed organizations using measurements. I didn’t come up with the succinct wording—“That which gets measured, gets done.” Peter Drucker did. He’s the father of modern management. And, he’s right.
But while true, is it absolutely true?
The implication is that we can measure, and that by measuring, determine if we are making progress. Progress leads to success. Reward success, starve un-success, and you get more progress and more success. People love success. People have money and want to invest in success. Simple enough, and now you’ve got a sustainable business.
Religious organizations—churches, nonprofits, and mission agencies—relay reports from the field that are amazing: miracles, conversion rates, baptisms, membership, outreaches, and dollars all of which can be budgeted, compiled on spreadsheets, and presented via PowerPoint. The success is impressive. The reports to the donors are tangible and the energy palpable. God is at work—here, here, and here.
Therefore, it makes measurable sense to reallocate personnel and financial resources to invest more heavily in growing markets of ministry. My financial planner does the same thing with my retirement portfolio. It’s a wise strategy. Invest in success.
So, how does this play out practically?
Ministries in Brazil are reporting remarkable increases in conversions while ministries in Vietnam are not. Ministry numbers in much of Africa are up while they are down in Asia. More troublesome is that ministry in China cannot be measured. No one knows if Christianity has deep roots in North Korea or not. Formal ministry in Yemen has gone underground and cannot be traced.
Based upon the truism—“That which gets measured, gets done”—the nonprofits and donors are correct to follow the numbers. Clearly, God is hard at work—and successfully—in Brazil and Africa and at the mega church in the suburbs. He is not at work, at least as successfully, in Myanmar, Iran, and the inner cities of America and Europe.
More challenging is that at a human level there are people laboring in ministry to those who live in these unsuccessful arenas. Are these ministers wasting their time? Has God moved on to more lucrative fields of ministry and left these ministers and human fields to waste away with abandoned neglect?
What should be done? When the numbers are not positive, should we conclude God is not active and reassign personnel and reallocate funds?
God can be measured and invested in, like a commodity, is the conclusion. Spiritual activity can be charted, rewarded, invested in, and propagated with funding. Therefore, we should evaluate where God is observably active and join Him there.
Are you buying this line of thinking?
Good. I was hoping you were skeptical by this point. There is nothing wrong with numbers and evaluation, but they must be used carefully lest we lapse into believing we can put God in a box and get Him to stay there.
God cannot be measured! He will not be measured, at least not in the moment. Later on, the historians might be able to report on what God did, but He is not static. Just because we figure out what He did and measure that does not imply that we know what He will do tomorrow.
Ministry is very tricky to measure and more difficult to plan. Don’t misunderstand. We should set goals, detail objectives, and we fail to pay attention to numbers at our peril. There is no reason to be a fool about evaluation, but there is no excuse to be foolish enough to think we can measure God.
You can define success—provided you use the correct metric. God considers dependence upon Him, through faith and trust, the ultimate success.
Walking in the Spirit, irrespective of measureable or evaluative success, is always the way God defines success. Walking independently of God, irrespective of measurable or evaluative success, is always the way God defines failure.
God traffics in the good news of Christ, the regenerate heart, eternal relationship, internal transformation, spiritual renewal, and eternal gain. These are broad fields of ministry that cannot be consistently measured.
The marketing blogger, Seth Godin, says there are two things you should never do. First, you should never try to measure that which is un-measurable. The reason is simple: You’ll get it wrong and have no way of knowing until much later. Second, when working in areas that cannot be measured, you must not compromise your investment in them. Either go all in—everything you have for the long haul—or stay home.
God gave all, an infinite value, to make a purchase of no worth—me and you. In His economy He then declared us priceless and worthy of life. As the recipients of His valuation and life, He invites us to do the same for others as He did for us via ministry outreach.
Can you measure that?