This week I did something that was a bit outside of my comfort zone: I went for a fitness assessment. If it were up to me, I would have never done this. You see, I really don’t like it when people observe me doing stuff—whether that is eating, working out or even sleeping. If I can feel someone’s eyes on me, I freeze up. But in order to join this particular gym, I needed to get an assessment done. So I spent an hour running up and down stairs and doing push-ups and strength tests, all while a set of eyes watched my every move.
As much as this was an uncomfortable experience for me, I couldn’t help but think that this gym has the right idea. After all, how can their workers properly instruct you on physical fitness if they don’t have a good idea of what kind of shape you are in? And besides, how can we test and push our physical limits to build endurance if we don’t know what our physical limits are? It just can’t happen. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your time spent at the gym, they need to evaluate where you currently are and where you want to go.
As the employee and I went over my results and discussed the areas that were good and the areas that need improvement, I kept being struck with the thought that maybe we as the Church should be doing for the spiritual what gyms do for the physical.
After all, isn’t the goal of a church very similar to that of a gym? Both want to increase membership. Both want to see their current members build strength. Both want to see their members advance in their health, whether spiritual or physical. So that said, maybe it’s about time we also started doing assessments.
All too often in church life we see similar cycles: People that come to know Christ, but tend to drop off the radar weeks or months later. Or people that get involved in the church, but then suddenly disappear. Or people that come in Sunday after Sunday, but never connect beyond that. Or people that are involved in everything, and on the outside have a perfect appearance until they take a hard tumble and suddenly look more like the rest of us.
Maybe what we’re missing then in the Church is regular assessments that build accountability. Times where we can meet openly and honestly with others in the Church and allow them to glimpse into our lives while we glimpse into theirs—times when we give others permission to do an assessment and times when we meet with them to discuss the results and make plans for improvement. There can even be times for a follow-up to see how we’re doing along our journey.
In his book The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull wrote, "To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train."
Yes, assessments are uncomfortable and sometimes plain embarrassing, but they are necessary. And when done properly, they can be transforming. When the gym employee and I went over my fitness assessment, it was done in such a way that I was left feeling motivated, rather than discouraged. How? Because besides pointing out just the weakness or the "needs improvements," my strengths were also pointed out. Yes, I really need to work on my flexibility, but I am one tough chick when it comes to hand strength, and I felt good walking away knowing that. In the same way, if while doing assessments of our spiritual lives, our strengths are gauged alongside of our weaknesses, we can walk away feeling both challenged and motivated to do something about it, rather than feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.
"And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thes. 5:14, TNIV).
"Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you" (Hebrews 13:17, TNIV).
Spiritual assessments aren’t something new, but they are definitely something that needs to be practiced more often in today’s Church. Not only for the health of the Church as a whole, but for the health of the leaders and the individuals within the body. And when that happens, things change. Because no longer is the church running on programs, but rather it is being propelled forward by passionate people after God’s own heart.
I know my life can use some assessment. Can yours?