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1 Thessalonians 3:6-8 • Spiritual Units of Measurement

"But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord."
    —1 Thessalonians 3:6-8 (NASB)

Imagine for a moment that you are your church's pastor and that you've gone to a weekend retreat attended only by other pastors. How would you describe your church, or the people of your church, whenever you introduce yourself to another pastor? If you were a shoe salesman attending a professional convention, you'd use whatever metrics are most important to sales people like volume of sales, customer demographics, marketing strategy, location, etc. What is the pastor-equivalent of that? Because in Paul's case it's defined by the quality of "your faith" and whether it allows them to "stand firm in the Lord".

I would venture that many of the units of measure that might be used during the weekend described above are probably things like overall attendance, number of small groups, congregation demographics, the scope and location of the facilities, and a lot of other metrics not too far astray from those of a shoe salesman. In a consumer-oriented society like ours in which market-type values have permeated even the church, it's not surprising to find people approaching and measuring their ministry in the same terms as any other consumer product. It makes a strong statement about the true condition of one's church, doesn't it?

I've made the mistake of spending far too much time in church leadership circles discussing building programs, church demographics, analysis of ministry participation, and a myriad of other things which reflect more the running of a corporation than a church according to biblical standards. Paul was never distressed about such things but only the spiritual condition of his flock. He actually measured the things we avoid talking about such as faith, love, and walking like Christ. His very life was tied to the degree of success the flock experienced in such things to the point that it was no exaggeration that a good report of such produced the personal result "now we really live". It was his life.

Not just limited to leaders, this is probably a unit of measure where our personal relationships are concerned. If our conversation never penetrates surface things like the weather, family, and current events, we're really not invested, much less interested in, another's spiritual walk. The lack of spiritual depth in our personal relationships may be tied to our nominal concern for their spiritual welfare.