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Recently Paul McKaughan wrote a paper on metrics and control that I think fits the purpose of our sailing friends blog. The paper is rather long so I am adding it to the Papers & Reports page. Let me just give you some sample statements from the paper, so you have an idea of Paul’s thinking:

“What you measure you become” [by Paul McKaughan]

Jim is a technological, creative and networking genius. His track record of effective innovation is stellar. He is way out in front of most mission types I know. From Jim, this affirmation, delivered with great vehemence, blew me away.

That statement has an ominous, inevitability to it. It sure got me thinking about how we use metrics and the impact they have on us. Is that statement even true, do we become what we measure? Throughout my whole missionary career I have been an advocate for metrics in missions. Faith Goals have been a big discipline and huge motivator in my life. Have I somehow missed the downside of measurement?

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Author Nicholas Eberstadt nailed the contemporary society we see all around us when he says, “Though he may not always recognize his bondage, modern man lives under a tyranny of numbers.” In insisting on numerical evaluation are we being shaped by our society’s “bondage” to numbers? This tyranny is derived from the belief that numbers are concrete and exact rather than relative representations of movement or scale. Another wise man affirmed. “What you measure becomes important, but it may not be significant.”

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Some time ago I came on a quote about metrics that convicted me. It sadly rings true in my personal experience.

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” –H. James Harrington

The desire for control over a very complex set of realities resides deep in the heart of most leaders. We want to manage well the resources God has placed in our care. In our most honest moments we are uneasy with how little we really do control as leaders. Metrics promise to give us leverage with the people we are supposed to be managing. The desire to establish corporate accountability and organizational discipline can pander to that deep-seated felt need to be in control. Using metrics to meet our fleshly need to feel in control can make us oppressors rather than enablers, overlords rather than servants. The unforeseen consequences of measurement can shape who we are becoming as people.

See McKhaughan’s full document in Papers & Reports.

Enjoy the reading.

Alex

We have argued that a paradigm of control over the process of advancing God’s kingdom leads to ministry structures that are not sufficiently flexible to respond to unexpected leading from the Wind of God. This is true even when in our hearts we really would like to be responsive.

If you lead a ministry with a formal organization, buildings, staff, and contracts with providers of goods and services, you have daily responsibilities and commitments that cannot be ignored while you wait for divine direction. How do we reconcile the basic demands of living and working in the world with the need to be flexible to God’s leading?

I am helped in my reflections by looking at the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses’ leadership.

There were two realities Moses had to consider:

1. He had to lead his people to Canaan;

2. And he had to provide for their well-being and security during the journey.

These are not contradictory but complementary realities. How was Moses to exercise his leadership responsibilities concerning the two areas?

God was very clear about the first one. God said concerning his mission to reach Canaan: I will provide you with spiritual guidance concerning when to move and when to stop. A pillar of fire will guide you at night and a cloud during the day. When they move, you and the people move. When they stop, you and the people stop. It would be foolish for Moses to continue moving when the cloud stopped, and foolish to stop when the cloud kept moving.

As to the second responsibility, there was no cloud by day or pillar of fire by night. Does that mean Moses did not need to do anything about the people’s well-being? Of course not. He did not need special guidance from God to manage the needs of the day. Camping space was allocated to families; provision was made for herding the cattle, for fetching water, and for all the activities that a large people must fulfill on a daily basis. There were also preparations to be made for the journey when the cloud moved again.

Moses and the people were not idle when the cloud stopped. When we talk about ‘sailing’ as a better metaphor than ‘powerboating’ for Christian ministries, we are not suggesting that we just sit idly waiting for the wind to blow. The Israelites were not idle when the cloud was not moving.

The issue with powerboating is not with regard to the operational aspects of running an organization; it has to do rather with plans and strategies that drive us to move when the cloud is stopped. Our model of ministry is generally based on ambitious strategies and timetables that demand we keep moving. They encourage skills related to relentless pursuit of results and target dates, and they undervalue the need to develop our spiritual sensitivities to the Wind of God. Therefore we may not be skilled at knowing how to wait: we equate waiting with lack of commitment, even disobedience.

If we conclude that our powerboat model is harming our desire to serve God well, we need to keep in mind that changing to a sailing model will involve learning how to be obedient as we wait. Moses was not idle while he waited for the cloud to move. But he had the flexibility to move and to stop as the Lord directed.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
but only God who gives the growth.”
(1 Corinthians 3:6–7 ESV)

The Bible teaches that when it comes to spiritual fruit, “God gives the growth.” But with our modern management orientation in Christian ministry, we often think we can control outcomes. This is understandable because of the secular environment in which we live in the west; but is it biblical?

In early September I attended a small gathering of mission leaders for a “Sailboat Retreat” during which we compared the powerboat mindset with the sailboat mindset—and what it could mean for Christian mission ministry. One of the things we discussed is that money is very often a controlling force in ministry. As a result, fundraising is what often shapes ministry. This can be quite unhealthy, an example of “the tail wagging the dog.”

In keeping with the sailboat theme of “catching the wind of God”—one of the things we considered in our sailboat retreat is this idea: Instead of having money as the single greatest catalyst for ministry, what if that catalyst was simply listening—listening to God and listening to people?

To make this contrast clear, take a look at two “formulas” for ministry. With the “powerboat” formula for Christian mission, the catalyst is money:

Money drives ministry for results

Money drives ministry for results

  • Money drives the process; no funding = no ministry = no results.
  • Money comes first; listening is sometimes optional and comes last.
  • Primary emphasis on fundraising and methods to raise money.
  • Western nations have more funds, therefore wealthy nations tend to control ministry.
  • Implies reliance on expensive structures, technology, “missions machinery.”
  • Money makes “mission” go fast.
  • Tremendous pressure on people for results—measurement of outcomes—in order to maintain funding. This shapes ministry strategy and reporting protocol.

With the “sailboat” formula for Christian mission, things are very different. The variables are the same, but the priorities are different. The catalyst is listening—to God and people.

Listening shapes ministry for faithfulness

Listening shapes ministry for faithfulness

  • Listening replaces money as the catalyst for global missions.
  • Listening comes first; money is sometimes optional and in balance with other priorities.
  • Primary emphasis on—listening to God—catching the wind of the Holy Spirit.
  • Implies a quantum leap by Christian mission leaders in the west relative to listening to Christian mission leaders in the global south—while at the same time adopting more of a servant role rather than a leadership role in missions.
  • Ministry can go forward without excessive reliance on funding.
  • Sometimes fast, sometimes slow; it depends on the wind of God.
  • Results are up to God, and can greatly exceed the plans of people, or not. Either one is okay, because God is in control. What is required is that God’s people be found faithful.

Obviously, there are generalizations involved in making formulas and it would be easy to critique specific pieces of the formulas above. Nevertheless, the point of this is to imagine: What would be different in your cross-cultural partnership, if you put listening ahead of funding? What if listening to God and to people was by far the most important, the most catalytic practice, in your cross-cultural partnership ministry—or any ministry, for that matter?

NOTE: This post is excerpted from a “A report on Catching the Wind of God—A Sailing Retreat: Contrasting the Powerboat and Sailboat mindset for leadership,” collated and edited by Alex Araujo and Werner Mischke. You may download a copy of this report by clicking here.