Monday, July 11, 2005

Examining cynicism

My friend Dave is wondering about the cynics that seem to be taking over his youth. I offered some opinion on the subject, then he asked something along the lines of how to show that love is genuine and not driven by numbers.

In Christianity, especially with those who lead Christian groups, there is an emphasis on numbers - numbers mean people are coming, mean the ministry is working, mean things are getting done. They are a measure of success. It's even Biblical, in Acts and elsewhere numbers are mentioned.

But I'm not convinced that numbers are the only (or best) way to measure success. I mean, there could be 100 people at an event, but 50 of them could be there trying to hook up (especially speaking in the youth context), another 20 could be there to get away from their parents, 10 could have been made to go by their parents, leaving about 20 who actually want to be there. Yes, all of them will have the opportunity to "get saved" at the event, but is that really how success should be measured?

It goes to motivation - is the purpose of what is happening to "get people saved" (i.e. to get emotional, say a prayer, and not know where to go from there), or to bring people into a relationship with Christ (it is different, trust me). With too narrow of a plan, with too narrow of a focus, the measure of success would be how many people came to the alter, and to increase the odds of how many people do that, increase how many people come - success is numbers.

If the purpose is to see people move from not loving God to loving Him, then how many people go to the alter doesn't matter so much, because maybe only 5 took that step, but another 50 listened and didn't ignore the whole thing, didn't walk out when they had the chance, and might have changed their mind about this whole God thing.

Problem is, things like that are hard to measure....In fact, without knowing the person, there is no way of knowing if any change happened at all, so numbers themselves become useless.

I think the way to show people that we do not have an agenda is to not have an agenda. Have a purpose, but have the same purpose with everyone we come into contact with - helping them get closer to God, no matter where they may be at the moment. That is how we should love people, how we should love anyone. That will keep people from becoming lost and ignored once they "get saved", that will show people we really care about them, no matter what they do, think, say, or believe.

Loving people this way forces us to know them, to care about them, to want to help them. It takes away the pressure for them to do something, thus taking away the sense that we are manipulating or waiting for a certain reaction in order to accept them.

This may not cure cynicism, but it will take away the reason for it.


Dancin' said...
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Dancin' said...

Steph, I feel like I'm getting a mixed message from ya (not tryin' to be mean). Are you sayin' Numbers is the best measurement of success or only one of many?
A friend of mine has never worked with a numerically successful youth ministry. The largest number of teens he ever had would have been between 20-30. However, I would still say his ministry was successful because to the best of my knowledge when he left the ministry it was further ahead than when he came.
To me that is success, when you bring a church further along in our journey to the Kingdom.

Steph said...

I'm saying that I understand why so many people measure success by numbers, but it all depends on what you call sucess. Most of the time, I don't think success can be measured by numbers, and so if we change our expectations (from numerical growth to, like you said, moving along the journey) numbers will not matter so much