How Do We Measure the Things That Matter?

Mona Lisa & Psy

We don’t measure the things that matter.

We measure the things we manage.

That’s the essence of a comment I made this week in response to a short blogpost written by Artie Davis, entitled Disciples? If You Mean It, Measure It!

UPDATE: Check out the gracious response to this post from Artie, below.

Artie’s blogpost restated an unquestioned premise of the church growth movement that needs to be questioned – that when something matters to us, we measure it. And unless we measure it, we can’t really do anything about it – including spiritual growth principles like discipleship.

He was inspired by a quote from an article about customer service, entitled We Move What We Measure. In his piece, one of the questions Artie asked was, “If we can’t measure it (discipleship) what other metric can we use?”

Here’s my entire response.

Hey Artie, I missed this one the first time around, so thanks for re-tweeting it.

Having said that, I have to argue with your premise – even though it’s one of the foundational principles of the church growth movement.

It strikes me that your premise would be accepted by every accountant and administrator in the world, but not by one artist. And here’s why.

How do we measure art?

  • By audience? If so, Gangnam Style is the greatest music video of all time.
  • Sales? That makes Thomas Kinkaid a greater painter than Gaugin, Matisse and Renoir combined.
  • Price? Then a ticket for a One Direction concert is more valuable than having been on the street in London when the Beatles threw their impromptu final (and free) concert on the rooftop of Apple studios.
  • Size? So tiny Mona Lisa is of less artistic merit than the banners made by a high school pep team?

We need to measure what we can manage – money, facilities, schedules and the like. That’s good stewardship. But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we have more control than we do.

The most important things in life – art, beauty, love and salvation – are immeasurable.

Plus, did Jesus use any term that even comes close to the word “metrics”?

Yes, I know Jesus told parables about turning small numbers into larger numbers. I’m also aware that he debriefed the disciples after sending them out two-by-two. And of course Jesus ministered to some large crowds. And someone counted those crowds. That all involves metrics.

But I also know that it wasn’t Jesus who measured the crowds, because whoever did, only counted the men. So if we measure what matters… [Ouch!]

Jesus told us that our ideas about what’s important to measure are often wrong – like counting only the men. According to him, the humble will be exalted, the weak will be strong, the widow’s mite is the biggest offering of all, and women and children count, even to people who don’t count them.

So let’s count what can be counted, manage what we can manage and measure what needs to be measured. That gives us a baseline of competence upon which great things can be built.

But let’s not be deluded into believing that our measuring gives us the ability to move anything that matters.

If we measure what we manage, may God give us the joy of an unmanageable, uncontrollable outbreak of joy, ministry, salvation and wonder.


Please don’t take it from my disagreement with him that Artie’s a bad guy. I’ve never met him, but he seems like a good guy, a great pastor and a passionate supporter of churches and church leaders. I just disagree with this article. You can check out more of Artie’s stuff at

UPDATE: I got a great response to this from Artie on his website. Turns out we’re not in such disagreement after all. I’ve added his response in the comment section below.

So what do you think? Did I get it right? Or did Artie? Are we measuring the right things or the wrong things?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you! Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

Split photo of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci & PSY from his Gangnam Style video, with over 1 billion views on YouTube. Better than Thriller? Not hardly.

Want to reprint this article? Click here for permission. (This protects me from copyright theft.)

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