As we’ve been noting, there are many Mistakes Leaders Make. One of the more serious mistakes, relating to discipleship, is confusing information with transformation.
Here is what Kraft means, in the context of his fictional church.
“Because quantity was a higher value than quality, people at CCC gradually made the mistake of replacing transformation (quality) with information (quantity). They were a Bible-teaching church. But they were at their core becoming a transactional (lots of activities) but not a transformational (life change) body of believers.”
The Senior Pastor put an emphasis on numbers- the growth of the church was measured quantitatively. There wasn’t really a matching focus on qualitative growth. It isn’t as if you have only one or the other. Any wise pastor wants BOTH. But I’ve seen many sacrifice the latter to pursue the former.
But even those who want to see qualitative growth can have inaccurate understanding of what it is and how it happens.
I recall, as a young Christian involved in a campus ministry, talking with the campus leader. He thought I was a mature Christian. I was merely a fairly well-read young Christian. Volume of information is not the same as maturity.
Information is necessary for life transformatio,n. But it isn’t sufficient for life transformation. If we think it is, we tend to pile up activities to dump information into people. This happens frequently in churches that value theological precision and knowledge.
“We must hear, believe, and respond to the truth being taught.”
The knowledge must be integrated into one’s life. As John Frame often notes, you haven’t really done the work of theology until you have application. The truth is meant to transform us. Sometimes you have to chew on it for a while (that’s called meditation). Sometimes you need to pray that God would be changing you in light of what you are learning. That is a process, not an event. Sometimes that is talking it over with others. And I could go on.
The problem is measure-ability. The business wants to be able to measure things. When we let too much business thinking infect how we view ministry, we focus on measure-ability. But how does one measure spiritual growth? We try to measure it by meetings attended, chapters read, books on the shelf etc. Outward things.
But spiritual growth is often hidden from our eyes. The person grows as they suffer and begin to trust God in the midst of that suffering. We grow as our life transitions and we have to trust God in the midst of uncertainty. We grow as we raise kids and feel like it will kill us.
We are all pretty clear about a church focused on information looks like: SS, Bible Studies, lengthy sermons etc. I’m not knocking those. I think they are important. You’ll find them at the church I pastor, for good reason.
But our responsibility goes deeper. A church focused on transformation allows time for people to talk these things through. It allows time to pray about such things together. In other words, it values relationship: ever-deepening relationships.
That is something that is far more difficult to cultivate and to measure. But too many pastors settle for the easy and measurable.