by Gil Rendle
Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Md. 156 pages
Reviewed by Allen D. Timm
Gil Rendle has turned the math of mission upside down in his latest book. He suggests that we define what difference we are making instead of instead of counting the number of missionaries that we send. If we know what difference we long to make, then we know whom to send, where and why, and what they will accomplish.
Fruits. God depends on our congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ who will change the world. Vital congregations produce fruit. Can your congregation answer this question: What difference has God called you to make in the next three to five years? An example of defining process would be: We run a tutoring program for the school down the street. But what is the measurable difference we are trying to make? One example of the difference we might make is to help each student in a class to advance to the next grade by the end of the year. A YMCA high school after-school program in Detroit hopes each student they mentor will attend college and graduate. An outcome is a measurable difference.
Faithfulness. How are we making disciples who will change the world? Every community has its own audience or neighbor. The question is: What is God doing that we can join? Another way to ask the question is: What breaks the heart of God? It is about calling. What does God dream for this corner of the kingdom and how can we join God’s work? To answer these questions we need to know who is in our neighborhood and what they need. What resources do we have to help them reach the outcome they seek? How can we be a catalyst?
Metrics. Rendle draws on Jim Collins’ “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” when he talks about metrics. Churches cannot measure the number of widgets they make. Likewise, what good is counting the number of new members? But what congregations can describe and measure are the things that will be different because the church has answered the call to mission. What they can measure is how far they have gone towards that difference they are trying to make. A great example Rendle gives is how to define a disciple of Jesus Christ. One could say a disciple acts civilly, practices forgiveness and applies Scripture to decisions made every day.
His suggestions have the potential of making a huge impact in our congregations. What if our teams and committees were charged to answer the question: What will be different because you hosted this event, attended that workshop or held this meeting? Inputs are resources, throughputs are activities, and outputs are the outcomes or what changes because we held an activity.
This work on doing the math of mission has changed a lot for me. If I teach a person to fish they can fish for life. Will we make disciples who will change the world? God is depending on our congregations to be mission stations who will show God’s dream for the kingdom in our corner of the world. If God calls us, we can depend on God to help us to build it.
ALLEN D. TIMM is executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Detroit.