“Just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Or that it matters.”
This is a quote from Seth Godin’s latest book, The Song of Significance. Godin is arguing for leaders to focus on the right things, rather than on ready distractions. He goes on to write, “Significant work requires us to make commitments and to keep them. To create change. To explore liminal space on our way from here to there.” Godin doesn’t pretend this is easy. On the contrary, it is hard, he says. Very hard.
The pull of doing things as they’ve always been done is strong. The fear of risks grows when so much of what we thought we knew has been upended. We exchange meaning for a sense of safety, impact for security. We measure what’s measurable and assume it matters. Or, as Sam Wells puts it, we look at life, at almost everything, as a problem to be solved rather than as a mystery to be entered.
I get this temptation, especially in ministry. I don’t make anything. I don’t fix anything. I’m not beholden to doing what makes for the best return for shareholders. Much of what I do isn’t all that tangible. I think that’s why it is so tempting to measure those things that are easy to measure. Attendance. Pledges. Giving. Membership. These things do matter, but they are far from ultimate. The temptation comes when I get fixated on them as indicative of my performance, or our value as a church. We get caught up having a greater share in the religious market when we are called to make disciples. Two very different things.
It is easy to focus on success instead of significance. But what for we Christians is significant? What ought our commitments be? What change should we be trying to create and are we ready for the liminal space we will need to trod to make it come to fruition? What does it look like to obey the greatest commandment and love God and neighbor, no matter the risks or the results?
What about for you personally? What are your unbreakable commitments? What are you called to change? What are you willing to risk in the process?
Here’s where I’ve landed lately: Be curious. Pay attention. Have integrity. Take courage. Practice (holy) indifference.
I wrestled with this creed, added and subtracted some things. I wondered if I needed instead to tape a favorite Bible verse to my computer, but I decided, for now, to focus on these five things. Of course, to do any of them I need the Holy Spirit and to be in tune to the Spirit I need to pray. I need to worship. I need to study Scripture. I need to tend to the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable of God’s children.
My hope, though, is that this list will shape how I approach those things, indeed how I approach everything, and in so doing I will be better able to focus on significance, as defined by Jesus, rather than success as defined by this world.
Harder to measure, to be sure, but, I trust, in the end and by the grace of God, it will matter.