With the following illustration, Alan Hirsch offers a different way of gauging a church’s effectiveness:
In some farming communities, the farmers might build fences around their properties to keep their livestock in and the livestock of neighbor farms out. This is a bounded set. But in rural communities where farms or ranches cover an enormous geographic area, fencing a property is out of the question. In our home of Australia, ranches (called Stations) are so vast that fences are superfluous. Under these conditions a farmer has to sink a bore and create a well, a precious water supply in the Outback. It is assumed that livestock, though they will stray, will never roam too far from the well, lest they die. That is centered set. As long as there is a clean supply of water the livestock will remain close by.
The essential difference is between measuring Influence instead of simply membership and/or attendance. The bounded-set, as Hirsch calls it, draws a clear line between those on the inside (i.e. members and regular attenders) and those outside. The centered-set, on the other hand, measures how many people are in some relation to the ministry of the church and gauges the various relative distances from the center values.
Though I do not see these grids as being mutually exclusive, as if one must choose one or the other, I do find Hirsch to have provided a helpful distinction.
In our church, for instance, we have some precious members who do not regularly participate in any of the Life of the Church. They come occasionally to any number of things, including infrequently to the Sunday morning worship service. To assume we are having an active influence in their spiritual growth would be, at best, presumptuous. On the other hand, there are people who are not members of our church, nor even attenders, but who are being actively influenced through ministries of counseling, discipleship, mercy, etc. While these folks are not part of the quantifiable membership, they are nevertheless beneficiaries of the mission of the church. In many ways some of these folks are closer to our center-set than are some of the irregular members.
So again, as I think about it, I see both of these grids as being beneficial. In fact, I would hope to see growth on both gauges. We long to see our influence expand, and realize that many whom we influence will never become part of our congregation. Some are members of other churches, and therefore should stay there and bless the people in those churches. But we also should be laboring, and praying, for those who are not part of a particular congregation to become connected to some expression of of the visible church – hopefully many with ours.
So, I don’t see that we need to make a choice between these two ways of measuring our congregations. I think we ought to use both. But, I guess, since relatively few are aware of Hirsch’s Ranch, we would be wise to spend our energies to cultivate and cast the importance of the centered-set.
One thought on “Numbering Those on the Ranch”
This is excellent in unity with what God always causes to be understood. The bounded set is a creation area that is coming into what it will always do together. This is also able to be called a doing something different circumstance. It is not understanding its interests completely and is understanding activity and communication that is not able to be set to an experience with love.
The center set of a creation area is one that is understanding God together within an experience with activity and communication that is united truth pertaining to what God is interested with moment to moment.
The water area or the well exist as Hallelujah Circumstance. This is also can be described and seen as an eye, a vagina or a whole knowing system such as with the word brain when the brain area is using itself in a continuous way. This area of life is continuously understanding united interest and the experience of united truth from God. This area is caused to know itself as united as one existence with the life around it (in this example above, the activity life if live stock). The activity life is caused to understand activity (doing and saying from God’s causation of nervous system communication arranged perfectly with “trash talk” removed) to the experience of united interest and meaning across all centered sets. So, it is able to be known that all life moving around the center bar is doing and saying existing as one with the area that is always set to hallelujah. The center bar, an always seeing and knowing area, is the life that God positions as a lot of eyes (a lot of centered sets living together side by side) causing sight of everything that has been positioned to love around it all at once when that is interesting. We will always see what God does and know completely about what God is interested in showing now. Christianity would understand the life of the center bar as the Christ head. This life gets moved into the bound set (doing different circumstance) and then repositioned to the center bar (whole well,whole eye, whole vagina, whole brain) each time God is revealing a new activity able to be done and said about completely.
This is interesting communication and I appreciated God causing it to be seen and understood in the area of Mass.