By Mark Slomka
I have a friend, Ron Flores, whose two sons pitched for Major League Baseball teams. He shared an interesting insight: when they followed their sons’ careers he quickly learned their success was defined by their individual numbers — not their teams’ win/loss records. The team could lose every game but as long as his sons’ numbers were good their careers were secure. The simple win/loss record was the scorecard of fans not the players.
My scorecard has definitely evolved over the years but its fundamental framework remains inspired and defined by four essential understandings.
1. My understanding of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus came preaching and teaching the arrival of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not the Church. Focus on the Church and you may lose the Kingdom. Focus on the Kingdom and you will gain the Church. This brief article does not allow me to go into detail but my understanding of the Kingdom Jesus presented announces God’s presence, God’s realm, and God’s rule. It has uniquely arrived in the person of Jesus and through the ministry of Jesus, God’s Kingdom presence expands. It is our task to magnify, manifest, and multiply God’s Kingdom presence. My call is to pastor people whose goal is to express and extend God’s Kingdom not grow our local church.
2. My understanding of the Church.
I regard the Church as God’s called-out people movement engaged in God’s Kingdom enterprise. Our identity must not be in the congregation we attend but in the global nation we are a part of. I am Jewish. I went to Hebrew and “sabbath” school till I was 16. When I was 13 I had my Bar-Mitzvah and at 16 I was confirmed. Never once at any temple or synagogue were we asked to identify with the local congregation. Instead the message was simple and clear: “We are Jews and as Jews we labor to make the world — not our local synagogue— a better place.” The Jews that were celebrated the most were those who were most active in the community or on behalf of global Judaism. This engagement was attractive and contagious.
3. My understanding of how God’s Kingdom grows.
Nearly all the kingdom parables narrate a growth that occurs organically. Saturation, penetration, and multiplication are the means for Kingdom advance. The sower saturates the ground with seed; the yeast penetrates the loaf, and the talents, used naturally, will multiply. The focus of the Kingdom parables is external: the treasure in the field, the birds of the air, the sower sowing, the pearl of great price, and the dragnet of fish. Each of these illustrate that God’s Kingdom is advanced among those and in places where it does not yet exist.
4. My understanding of who grows God’s Kingdom.
It is the saints scattered that will grow the Kingdom. Therefore, my aim is to equip and deploy saints to the global marketplace, not to equip and employ them for local church service. Church growth is measured in adding people to an existing community. Kingdom growth is measured in multiplying God’s Kingdom presence in places where He has been previously absent. So I endeavor to sow seeds of Kingdom leaders who look to influence the global marketplace communally not just individually. This means raising up and releasing our best. For example, we have a terrific leader who could do a lot for our congregation if we had him focused on our local gathering. Instead, I have encouraged him to see his mission as bringing the Kingdom to emerging venture capitalists and leaders who are interning with him from China. By the time you read this he has started an optional bible study in the Gospels that has over 14 in attendance — some have even started worshipping with us. The goal is not simply to bring them to Christ. We are looking to multiply God’s Kingdom presence by making disciple-makers whose vision is to bring the Kingdom into their spheres of influence.
Design your scorecard wisely. It will define you, drive you, and, quite possibly, distract and defeat you if your metrics are unbiblical, unrealistic, and unwise. The traditional pastoral scorecard is usually composed of some combination of cash, crowds, and criticism. I believe the scorecard for the 21st Century Church will have to be composed differently. The scorecard of the future will have to include the disciple-makers we are influencing, the leaders we are releasing, the global marketplace we are penetrating, and the missional communities we are birthing.
Otherwise, I fear we may be simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Mark Slomka is the lead pastor of Faith Community Church in San Diego, CA.