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Firing At the Wrong Target

At the Athens Olympics in 2004, sport shooter Matt Emmons was just one trigger pull away from winning a second gold medal. He was so far ahead of second place in the fifty-meter three-position rifle competition that all he had to do was hit the target (and hit it anywhere) and he would win.

With unwavering calm and unbelievable precision, Emmons aimed and fired, unsurprisingly hitting another bullseye. After a few seconds passed without any indication of his victory, he surmised that the scoreboard must be broken. But then three red-jacketed officials approached. They informed him that, while standing in lane 2, he hit the bullseye in lane 3.

The gut-wrenching video recording of the competition features an announcer who can hardly believe the turn of events. Standing at the microphone, he tries to find the words to explain:

So, ladies and gentlemen, uh, the shot of shooter number 2, is a zero. It was a cross-shot.

With Emmons face downcast in disbelief, those in attendance erupt in response to this shocking news.

While extremely rare in such competitions, there is a technical term that describes what happened to Emmons: "cross firing." Though it's rare in the fifty-meter rifle competition, it's common in churches today. Author Will Mancini explains:

Imagine that you are sitting in front of five or six people at your church. They may be elders, council members, volunteer leaders, or members of your small group... Then you ask them the simple question, "What ministry bullseye are you all aiming at together?" Every week I see blank stares when I ask this question. Or if the staff does attempt an answer, the bullseye descriptions are never the same. In other words, it's almost impossible for me to walk into a church where the top leaders have a shared articulation of what results they are looking for. What happened to Emmons is happening right now in tens of thoughts of churches in North America: well-meaning leaders are shooting across lanes at other targets. 

As I shared at our annual meeting last Sunday, there are 12 specific initiatives currently underway at Good Shepherd, the first of which is developing an answer to the question, "When are we successful?" In other words, "What are we aiming at together?" or even "What is our bullseye?" (If you missed the meeting, click here to download an excerpt of these initiatives) Over the next few weeks, we'll be digging into these initiatives individually. 

As I shared at the meeting, Staff and Session are seeking to outline the attributes and characteristics in our individual lives that define or reflect the accomplishment of our mission. What is our portrait of a spiritually mature disciple of Jesus Christ?

The old saying goes, "You are what you measure." And most churches fall into counting nickels and noses (that is, how much we give financially and how many of us show up). Or, how 'bout the ABC's (attendance, buildings, and cash)? While those measures tell us something about our ministry, a deeper answer to the question is needed which prioritizes "the Spirit's work of soul formation, and Jesus' agenda for multiplication."

While measuring input (church attendance) and output (giving) can tell us something, what's most important is the impact of the gospel on our lives. If we were growing citrus where I grew up in the Central Valley, we might measure the input (the amount of water per tree) or output (the number of oranges yielded).

But how do you measure the impact of an orange? 

Maybe declining rates of scurvy. Or the smile on a child's face during halftime of their AYSO soccer game!

Please be in prayer for the Staff and Session of Good Shepherd, as we seek to answer that crucial question, "When are we successful?" or "What are we aiming at together?" or "What is our bullseye?"

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Curtis

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