I should confess that my blog entry today is at least in part my rebellion against "strategic plans;" my colleagues here in the church office will not be shocked that I'd rebel against them. It's just that, so often, the most important stuff in life and in ministry is not measurable.
The temptation to measure is often irresistible. I give in: you may have noticed that I even put a counter on this blog to track how many folks visit it. And, when it gives us a way to hold accountable to the things we value most, measuring can be a really good thing. Sometimes, even while I'm a long way from my goal, looking at how far I've come provides critical encouragement.
The trouble comes when I get too good at measuring myself up against others. I'm tempted to excuse myself for my own short-comings--after all, at least I'm not as bad as SOME people are.
One of the biggest problems with measurable objectives is that, often, the most important stuff can't be measured at all. I think that's what Paul was talking about when he wrote his letter to the church in Rome. In this week's scripture passage, he keeps telling people how it's not how well people do the things we can measure or chart or police that saves us--we are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ, whose grace changes everything.
I get pretty depressed when I think of all the ways we, as a church, give messages (both explicit and implied) that good church people need to measure up to some standards. That they need to be certain ways or do particular things or avoid whatever behavior we name as the biggest sin. Our measuring tools never do an adequate job of making space for God's incredible, abounding, mysterious and scandalous grace.
We are all sinners, Paul says. The point isn't to measure up against each other. The hope is to be changed by a grace that defies the limitations of our little minds. And, then, be "church" together--a community that is the body of Christ in the midst of a world in need.