Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Metrics

As our church’s Lead Pastor, I am accountable to a team of elders.  A key component of that accountability involves measuring how successfully I lead us to the fulfillment of our stated mission.  We call this measuring process, metrics— a concept that sounds simple enough.  And broadly speaking, it’s a truth so basic you could call it Leadership 101:

“If you can’t measure it or monitor it— you can’t manage it.” 

But I’ve got to confess, I really struggle with how we monitor the metrics in my ministry.  My problem isn’t defining the concept of metrics— it’s DO-ing it, that’s what troubles me.  I find metrics especially gnarly in a ministry setting because, “What do you decide to count, and how do you count it?” 

In the corporate world, leader teams can easily measure their mission by checking out the bottom line.  But in ministry, our bottom line isn’t profit.  Our God-given mission directive is all about life-change.  The gospel of Jesus is about transforming people…nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. 

But how do you chart a changed life? 

Do you select only the stuff you can count so you can establish goals and have something to rally the troops around plus a tool for evaluating your senior leadership? 

OR…do you continue to beat the drum of life-change even though it’s a concept so unspeakably hard to measure?  Truth is, you and I can’t measure it.  We can only know life-change when we see life-change.  And when life-change isn’t happening?  We instinctively know it because something doesn’t smell right.

But does that inherent difficulty mean that you keep your feet firmly planted in mid-air?  So you count some beans— membership class attenders, baptisms, and the number of people moving into small groups— even though what keeps your heart beating [both hard and soft] are the stories!?

To me, in the end, it really IS all about all those amazing stories. 

 

I’d been struggling with this conundrum recently, so I grabbed my Bible {not a bad choice, I might add}.  And found a man described in the Bible as “successful in whatever he undertook.”[1]  Intrigued by such a glowing analysis, I grabbed my notepad and began scribbling a list of the key “metrics” that percolated up from King Hezekiah’s leadership. 

On the one hand, there were significant achievements I could count.  For example, Hezekiah “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”[2]  He even “broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”[3] 

These accomplishments were all quite notable and led to the success of Judah’s divine mission.  And Hezekiah’s snake deal?  That downright risky and courageous— since Hezekiah had demolished a relic that God Himself had used, but never intended it to be an enduring object of worship. 

But most of that list was deeds that other kings [both before and after him] had also done.  Yet the Bible says “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah.”[4]  So why did Hezekiah receive such a glowing commendation? 

Well that’s where things get fuzzy.  Including such “fuzz” as:    

“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”[5] 

He “trusted in the Lord.”[6] 

He “held fast to the Lord.”

He kept the commands [of] the Lord.” [7]

Again…all really important stuff.  But how do you measure such stuff? 

 

That’s why success is so sneaky.  Because sometimes success can only be revealed within the folds of someone’s storyA lot of what Hezekiah did for Judah can’t be tallied on a spreadsheet.  He did many good things, but much of the good he did can only be appreciated by the telling of his story.

I say that because it’s the “and” of Hezekiah’s story that made such a huge difference.  “He did what was right, he trusted, he held fast, he kept the commands, AND…”

And…what?

And…He did things that can’t be measured, but because he did them…? 

For that reason…

In response to his trust in the Lord— “the Lord was with him.”[8]

And that’s why Hezekiah “was successful.”[9]

 

How do we know the Lord was with him?  Because of his story.  A story that doesn’t read like most success stories…and that’s why measuring success can be so sneaky. 

Even though the Bible says that he was successful in whatever he undertook, at first glance Hezekiah’s “whatever” almost took him under.  AS you piece through his story, you find that this king faced what can only be described as relentless setbacks.  For example,

• He was attacked by the king  of Assyria, who captured all of Judah’s fortified cities.[10]   

He lost every city under his command. 

 • He was forced to pay, literally, a king’s ransom.  A payoff that included: “ALL the silver…in the temple and in the treasuries of the royal palace” {see verse 15, emphasis mine}.  He even “stripped off the gold” that had “covered the doors and doorposts of the temple.”[11]

He lost all of his kingdom’s financial reserves.  

•  He was subjected to humiliation and public ridicule.  Vile, accusatory abuse was heaped on him.  “On what are you basing this confidence?”  “You speak only empty words.” {See verses 19-25}  These verbal grenades were hurled within earshot of Hezekiah’s people, goading them to panic claiming that they would “eat their own excrement and drink their own urine.”[12]

He lost Judah’s confidence and international standing.

 

At face value, the metrics on Hezekiah’s so-called “success story” seem lacking.  But it’s behind the folds of his story that you’ll see what set him apart. 

He was prayerful

“When [Hezekiah] heard this {Assyria’s assault against him}, he…went into the temple.”[13]  In other words, HE PRAYED.  He didn’t launch a counter-attack, he prayed.  And because he remained silent, his people did the same.  They trusted his leadership primarily because he didn’t expect from them anything he wasn’t willing to do himself {see verse 36}.

He was discerning

Why did Hezekiah pray?  Because he knew this attack was not a personal affront; these naysayers had been “sent to ridicule the living God.”  So Hezekiah refused to return fire.  Instead, he waited for God to “rebuke [Assyria] for the words the Lord your God has heard.”[14]

He was submissive to spiritual instruction

Even though Hezekiah was king, when Isaiah told him that the Lord had said, “Do not be afraid…I will have him cut down,”[15] Hezekiah took God at His word and did exactly as he was told.

 

There are more folds to Hezekiah’s storied success. 

When a second uprising rose up against him, Hezekiah responded exactly as before.  This amazing leader was steadfastly predictable, even in the face of relentless attack.  When Hezekiah received a letter intended to scandalize his leadership, he “spread it out before the Lord.”[16] 

What was God’s response this time?  “I have heard your prayer.”[17]  And sure enough, by morning, the King of Assyria was toast. 

 

On another occasion, Hezekiah’s success story meant a tragic sickness.  In fact, he became so sick, he “was at the point of death.”  Isaiah even told him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”[18]

Wow!  You and I think success means, “wholeness.”  So if I’m less than whole…?  I’m a failure! 

But instead of allowing his death sentence to drive him away from God, Hezekiah, predictably, “turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord.” 

That doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle.  But as he struggled he prayed, pouring out his heart, telling God that he had “walked before [God] faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and [that he had] done what is good in [God’s] eyes.”[19]  “And yet…after everything else I’ve been through, now I get sick, too?”

Of course he got sick.  Because everybody gets sick…just as everybody also dies.  But that doesn’t mean that you don’t mourn that fact.  Truth is, “Hezekiah wept bitterly.”[20]

Some might inaccurately conclude that Hezekiah was successful because after he prayed, God quickly changed His mind and gave Hezekiah another 15 years of life.  And his healing really IS an amazing story!  {Check out 2 Kings 20:1-7}  It’s just that the healing part is God’s part of the story. 

Receiving God’s healing wasn’t part of Hezekiah’s metrics report, because healing is a God-thing.  Just as baptisms and attendance and building funds aren’t what we can own, either. 

Neither can we call him successful because in answer to another prayer from Hezekiah, God “made the shadow go back the ten steps it had [already] gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”[21]  Making time go backwards is a stunning feat, alright.  But it was a feat done by God, not Hezekiah. 

 

What made Hezekiah successful is that he prayed.  He trusted.  He did what was right.  The results— the metrics of his amazing story— belong, exclusively, to God.  Hezekiah did what he could do, and then God responded by doing what He alone can do. 

It’s important to note that Hezekiah didn’t always get miraculous answers to his prayer.  He prayed for his country to be freed…and, in time, they would be freed.  God told him, “I will defend this city for My sake.”[22]

But not until after Babylon.  No, a time was coming when everything Hezekiah had struggled to build would be taken away— lock, stock and barrel— to Babylon.  Nothing would be left.  And all the descendants of Hezekiah’s loyal subjects would also be taken captive. 

This “successful” man would lose his entire kingdom.  A prophecy to which Hezekiah replied, “The word of the Lord…is good.”[23]  Even though you gotta know, to hear that felt anything BUT good. 

 

I’m just saying, “If I delivered that kind of devastating news to my elders next month?”  I don’t think they’d call it, “good.”  Much less make a mark in their book of metrics under a column marked, “success.”

 

So my study is through and I’m just as confused as before I started.  When it comes to success in my ministry, I simply don’t know how to measure it.  Except I do know this much:  I want to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”[24] 

And I want those I serve to “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”[25] 

So until I get this thing figured out, here’s my plan:  I’ll do my best to do what is right.  I’ll trust in the Lord and keep the commands of the Lord.  And I will keep going to the temple.  And I’ll keep praying that as I lead, more and more people will reach over into faith and then mature in their faith. 

And I’ll trust God to use His “reed like a measuring rod” and lay it alongside the part of the temple my elders and I are trying to build…and that He will make the final read on the story my life has written with the same mercy with which he measured the king. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] II Kings 18:7b

[2] II Kings 18:4

[3] II Kings 18:4

[4] II Kings 18:5

[5] II Kings 18:3

[6] I Kings 18:5a

[7] II Kings 18:6

[8] II Kings 18:7

[9] II Kings 18:7

[10] II Kings 19;13

[11] II Kings 19:16

[12] II Kings 19:27

[13] II Kings 19:1

[14] II Kings 19:4

[15] II Kings 19:7

[16] II Kings 19:14

[17] II Kings 19:20

[18] II Kings 20:1

[19] II Kings 20:3

[20] II Kings 20:3b

[21] II Kings 20:11

[22] II Kings 20:6

[23] II Kings 20:19

[24] Ephesians 3:19

[25] Ephesians 4:13

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