“Could someone please pass the chicken?”

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” ( Acts 2:42-47)

Andrew Nelson Lytle wrote in his seminal work, “A Wake for the Living”, that back in the earliest days of the twentieth century if someone from the industrialized North met you for the first time, the question they would most likely ask you would be “What kind of work do you do?”

Lytle then wrote that to the contrary, folks from the agricultural South would likely introduce themselves with one of two questions:  “Where are you from?” or “Who is your daddy (or mama)?”  Southerners moved at a different pace, and were less concerned with vocation, leaning more toward interest in place and relationship.  Connection was the priority.

Our culture has changed significantly over the years, and a more transient population has blurred some of the lines between North and South, and the industrial, consumer mindset has become a part of even our rural areas..  Today, people are more concerned with “doing”, “producing”, and “obtaining” than “being connected”.  The attitude has even infiltrated our churches.  Think about it…How does your church measure itself? By productivity?  Or connectedness?

In the church of my youth, the Attendance Board was the tool used to measure the church.  It hung in a hallway that connected the sanctuary to the Sunday School rooms and Fellowship Hall.  Everyone that attended would likely pass by it.  The board contained numbers from the prior Sunday, including attendance for Sunday School, attendance for the worship service, and how much the offering was during each of these times.  We actually took up three offerings each Sunday: One before Sunday School, when birthdays were acknowledged.  Little kids would put change equivalent to their age (10 years old = 10 cents) in a small, church building shaped offering box while the congregation sang “Happy Birthday”;  Adults would usually do the same, but in dollars.

We then took up an offering during Sunday School, and finally the “general offering” during the worship service.  Brotha, we knew how to pass a plate back in the day!

The attendance board of my youth has today become a monster. Churches most often measure themselves in the same way western culture measures success: by productivity.  The old board has been enhanced and “improved” with pie charts, line graphs, and budget reports that only an accountant could understand.   One post-modern evangelical church I served at measures the following on a consistent basis:

– Worship service attendance

– Sunday School attendance (Whether you call it “Connections”, “Life Groups”, or whatever the latest catch phrase is, folks, it’s still “Sunday School”…)

– Discipleship classes attendance (usually on Sunday night)

– Prayer Service attendance (Wednesday nights for adults)

– Awana attendance (for elementary school-aged kids)

– Youth group attendance (for teens)

– Number of volunteers serving during each of the aforementioned