How do you know when you’ve won? In basketball, it’s when you’re scored the most points. In track, it’s when you cross the finish line first. In other competitions, winning is determined by the judges’ scores. In Monopoly, it’s when you’ve earned the most money. In most of life, it’s easy to determine when you’ve won.
But how about at church? How do you know if your church is “winning”? This language may be off-putting to some. After all, we’re not at church to win. We’re not competing against anyone. Church is a place for collaboration, for teamwork, for community; it’s not a place for a “winner take all” mentality.
But the authors of “Seven Practices of Effective Ministry” would beg to differ. One of their practices is “clarifying the win.” In other words, as a church we need to know what a win looks like so that we can strive toward achieving it. The challenge is figuring out what a win looks like.
Some people may say a win is determined by the “nickels and noses” principles. How many dollars are in the offering plates and how many people are in the pews? That’s certainly a quantifiable way to determine whether or not a church is successful. It’s convenient to boil it down to numbers and statistics. But that’s not how you clarify a win.
Other people might say a win is decided by how much a church is doing. If that’s the case, then Crestwood wins by a landslide! When you add up all the programs and ministries that happen as a result of this congregation’s efforts, it’s quite staggering. And yet, that’s not how you clarify a win, either.
According to the authors, a win is a changed life. Each life that is transformed is another point on the scoreboard of eternity, because the church’s mission is to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ. Each time someone makes the decision to give their life to Christ, the church wins.
So the overriding question we should ask about each and every ministry of our church is this: Are we changing lives? Are we making a difference in people’s faith? We can have an overflowing sanctuary and a robust bottom line and a schedule bursting at the seams and still be losing the battle.
So how do we know when we’ve won? When people tell their stories about how their relationship with Christ has transformed them. We win each time a person is baptized. We win each time a person makes or reaffirms their confession of faith in Christ and joins the church. We win when we give hope to someone who is hopeless. This is our goal. This is how we win.