When Is A Church Program Successful?



Michael Frost tells this story in The Road to Missional: Journey to the Centre of the Church When creating a violin, Stradivari would carefully choose the required wood, weighing it, feeling its balance, measuring its quality, not by slide rule or guidebook, but in his hands. Then he would bring his apprentice to his elbow and pass him the chosen wood. No apprentice could explain which pieces were chosen and which were rejected. They felt it in their hands after learning to feel what their master felt. Is this not exactly what we see Jesus doing with his disciples? He brings them to his elbow and invites them to feel his kingdom work before putting it into practice.[1]


I ended a successful program


A couple of years after coming on staff at my present church I ended a well-established internationally recognized program which we had be operating for several years. I did this for a couple of reasons.


· we were measuring much of the success of the program by attendance.

· We assumed that running the program assured meaningful change in participant’s lives.

· we were equating program with ministry, rather than meaningful life change and transformed lives.”

· I determined that the next program we adopted could only be the framework within which meaningful, transformative ministry took place.


At first, no apprentice can explain which pieces were chosen and which were rejected

This means the measurement Metric of attendance and participation is not a significant measurement of ministry. Our goal, our metric: “to teach them to feel it in their hands after learning to feel what their master felt.”


Discipleship measured by commitment, and changed lives is messy.

I meet with the ministry leader weekly. We have cried together and laughed together and questioned our decisions together. Today she shared story of deep transformation which has been years in the forming. She also told me she may have to ask a couple participants to leave the “program.” “We are bringing them to Jesus’ elbow, inviting them to feel his kingdom work before putting it into practice.” Not everyone is willing to do so.






[1] Frost, M. (2011), The Road to Missional: Journey to the Centre of the Church. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books.

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