In the business world, results matter. We measure Return on Investment (ROI) to determine if we've made sound decisions. And ROI can determine if we continue a business venture. It's a measurement that helps us determine best practices.
In the church world, faithfulness matters. We work diligently and leave the "fruit" to God. Or at least that's how I've experienced the dynamic of measurement in the church world. And, for good reasons, to some degree. We are called to faithfulness; results take time–a discouraging amount of time sometimes! And God is the one who bears fruit. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." Yes, there are very good reasons to leave results up to God.
But what about the parable of the sower I read in my quiet time yesterday? It seems like results are the goal: a hundredfold results. And then there's the parable of the talents. The one who's praised by God is the one who invested it wisely. I'd say there was some ROI measurement going on there! It seems that refusing to measure results in the church can be a bit of a dodge.
In "The Speed of Trust," Stephen R. Covey writes "It's vital to take responsibility for results–not just activities. This approach unleashes creativity. It helps you understand that if you can't get results one way, you try another way–you don't just sit there and whine, 'Well, I did what you told me to do!' "
So why not measure results in the church world? In fact, wouldn't results tell us we're doing the right things? We don't have to be afraid of setting goals, planning for those goals, and then measuring those goals to learn. It doesn't mean we just measure numerical growth, but it might mean that the community-building event we planned results in ongoing friendships after the event. It might mean that the outreach event results in a certain percentage of families then assimilating into our church. Those would be interesting outcomes–not just whether 50 people came.
I think results do matter. And I think we all need to do a better job of figuring out how to assess results. It's tough because spiritual growth is a heart thing. But then again, Jesus said we would know one another by our fruit. Maybe there are things we can observe and measure after all.