What Counts?

I had an opportunity to head down to the Bay Area last week and spend some time with leaders doing city gospel movement work there. Transform the Bay with Christ (TBC) is an effort which pulls together the Body of Christ from among the 8 million people in the bay. Joined by leaders from Portland, there was a clear sense of "iron sharpening iron" as we gathered together. Our cohort will meet again here in Seattle in a few months and I am looking forward to showing our other NW cities the great things God is doing here in Seattle.

One of the reasons this time was so encouraging, is that I was with people who shared the same sense of "success." My friend Chris Renzelman recently asked me a profound question, "What are you counting on your scorecard?" When do you know you have scored, or when you have fallen short? We must have discernment in knowing which ideals we are living into and which ones we are rejecting.

Two years ago, during our end of year staff party, Jeff Lilley, the president of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, shared how we had served over 900,000 meals that year. He then asked, “How many should we go for next year?” The staff responded vigorously, “A Million!!!”

Jeff, with his eyes on the right scorecard, responded, “Don’t we want to see less hungry people in our city?” The staff at the Mission had fallen into the old belief that our value is in what we can produce, and what we can accomplish. In this case we clearly missed the mark that really mattered.

While in the Bay Area, we also caught up with Francis Chan, an old friend of Jeff’s, who told us about the house church ministry he is investing in. He described the new “scorecard” he was using that was all about making disciples, sharing the gospel and developing new leaders. He spoke of how the goal was for each house church to split every 6 to 9 months so that there could be new leaders in place who would need to develop quickly before they took the reigns of church leadership. He shared stories of unlikely people coming to Christ, and unlikely leaders working together. Right in the middle of our conversation, there was a commotion at the door of the coffee shop.

A wheelchair bound man was banging on the door and appeared to be stuck. Before I could respond, a worker at the coffee shop (which was one of the house church ministry centers) named John was at the door to offer assistance. John, a relatively recent convert and church planter himself, engaged the man who asked for free coffee and then proceeded to cuss and scream and smash anything in arms length. He made quite a scene, and for the next five minutes remained outside shouting and cursing John as he slowly crossed the street and began another wave of insults.

John came in and stopped at our table, explaining, “There is actually a really cool story with this guy. He is homeless and has some deep mental health issues. We found him under a freeway and continued to connect with him over several months, sharing with him the gospel and trying to help him out in ways he would allow.” John began to light up, “But now! He comes to us every day! We continue to tell him that we love him and we no longer go find him, he finds us! I know that God is working in this man!”

John, and Jeff and Francis and the folks from Portland and the TBC, and you and I are all leaning into something that we believe is valuable. We all have our sense of what really counts. What I loved about these stories is the shared sense that the scorecard should not be defined by us and we want, but by God. We need not look deep within ourselves, but look deeply out toward God’s kingdom purposes. In Galatians 5:22-25, Paul explains, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

What are you counting on your scorecard? I have found that those who share God’s scorecard, and keep in step with his Spirit have an instant connection to one another… and those who abide by the flesh, looking to their own purposes are unavoidably divided.

Chris Gough

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