Tuesday Re-mix –
This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
“A plumb line,” I replied.
Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. Amos 7:7-8
There are a lot of ways to measure the “success” of the church today, a lot of standards from which we can draw. I suppose which standard we use will depend on who we are trying to please at the time. Whether they will admit it or not, our people most often use their own comfort level as the standard for judging whether or not we are “getting it right”. Our denominational entities likely would care about our level of “support” for their programs and, more importantly, their budget. Our communities would measure our effectiveness by how much assistance we offer them. And you and I? Oh we probably count noses in gathered worship or baptisms last year or variance from budget or some other such objective, measurable standards.
Please hear me when I say that, as far as I am concerned, all of those standards are fine measurements of some aspect of our effectiveness as a church. I really have no qualms with any of them. Each of them, it seems to me, has a right place in our strategic planning and in our “doing church”. Similarly, I suspect that, during Amos’ time, the people of Israel had some objective, measurable standards for their own version of church and worship and honoring God. I also suspect that, like the church today, they were knocking it out of the park by some of those standards.
But from God’s perspective, they were failing miserably. When God placed His plumb line up against what they had built, well, there was a problem. You see what happens when we lose sight of the perspective that matters most? There are a lot of ways to measure or evaluate a wall. You can test its thickness to make sure it meets those specifications. You can measure its height or its width and find both to be admirable. You can test the weather-proofing of the exterior material or the finish of the interior and determine that either or both are just fine. But when you hold a plumb line up to it and find that it is leaning horribly in one direction or the other, none of those other measurements mean much.
Your church may be like that. It may be pleasing to your members, or to your denomination, or to your community, or even to you…but if it does not measure up to the plumb line of God’s Word (which, for the New Testament church, is Jesus), then it is failing. And while we are working to please all those other people and measure up to all those other standards, it is easy to lose sight of the one that matters most: what does Jesus think of our church?