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From the Rev: Thousands to One

Dec 20, 2018

If you’re like me, you’re likely getting a few emails these days from various ministries, churches, non-profit, and NGO’s. One email header caught my attention:

THOUSANDS of lives changed…

Thousands.

As I opened up this particular group’s Year in Review report, I saw amazing graphics, cool photographs, video linked testimonials. It was the third, such, Year in Review or Year Summary that I had seen and felt drawn into. It started me wondering whether Soccer Chaplains United needs to put together a professional looking report and summary for our own donors and constituency.

But then I paused.

What if our number was only one?

What if we only impacted one life?

Is one life, worth it? Is one life enough?

Now, I am not going to share the over-used “starfish” story. I am not trying to start a conversation here about the American evangelical church’s love affair with numbers and metrics. I am not trying to pull back the curtain on how different reports and numbers get massaged or finessed (have you ever considered how Christian churches are shrinking despite baptizing 1000’s of people every year?). I am not really looking to create the kind of stir that would have our board members start calling me with concern. But this question has had me up at night:

What if our number was only one?

When I reflect back on the pages of Scripture. There seems to be a least some precedent, for considering the one. The two passages that come most quickly to my mind:

Luke 15

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

James 5

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. 

Friend, I don’t know how you believe that we ought to “measure success.” I can honestly say that I believe that pastors and ministries need to have accountability. Soccer Chaplains United will produce a year-end report and give an account for the money spent, the work done. I don’t know if you look at these things and make choices on how much you donate or give. It is likely that we will try to accurately report to our board the stories of how our chaplains, counselors, and coordinators have served.

Pastors and ministries need to have accountability…

I just wonder if at some point we’ve got to leave the counting and accounting up to God. I just wonder if our trust in mission and ministries of so many churches and non-profits is so low because we’ve been hurt, wounded, or we’ve seen fraudulent and unaccounted behavior from so many. I wonder if we’ve become so capitalistic in our ideals as Christians in the West that we fight over the “limited” or shrinking resources of generosity that seem to get reported in the news and online.

I would love to report, as other churches and ministries do, that we have affected thousands of people (and maybe we have). I would love to come up with a clever metric which says something like “for every $1 you donate we touch _____# of lives.” I would love to share with you that we chaplains are actually like “mega-church” pastors (we just have stadiums instead of traditional church buildings). I would love to “massage” the numbers that our chaplains, counselors, and coordinators have contributed and come up with all sorts of “touch points.”

But so many times our work and our efforts are not measurable in such ways. And maybe, truth be told, we will never be able to measure the impact or the number of lives whom we have served, whom we have loved, whom we have prayed for, whom we have cried with, whom we have celebrated with, whom we feel called and drawn to, whom we have sat with in the pit and pain of all that happens in this game and in this life.

If we only impacted one life, would it be enough?

I ask you, would it be enough if the only number we reported to you this year, is just one? Just one.

Sincerely,

Rev Brad Kenney

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