The last post I mentioned the UMC is measuring a number of stats for a local church (which is not new) and it is unclear how the UMC desires to use this data just yet. I also mentioned that I was interested in knowing less about the current position of the church and am much more interested in the momentum of the church.
The problem is that, according to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, it does not seem possible to measure the position and the momentum of something at the same time.
Complicating the matter even more, there is something in physics called the "observer effect".
The observer effect says that just by observing something you change what is being observed.
We know this on some level already because many of us would like to have the super power of invisibility to see what others would do/say if they were not being watched. The rise of voyeurism in the culture is an example of the fact that we act differently if we know we are being watched.
Makes sense for people, but what about non-animate objects? Do non-animate objects change when being observed?
The common example is observing tire pressure. To know the pressure you have to let some pressure out - thus changing the pressure and never knowing the true pressure.
The UMC has made an effort to being to observe several numbers. So the question becomes, by observing, say worship attendance, change the nature of worship attendance?
I might suggest yes it does.
When you observe worship attendance then it becomes something that people "do". Like going to the store each week for food. When worship is something that is 'done' then we describe ourselves as people who "attend" worship.
But let me be clear. Worship is not something that Christians do. Worship is something that is a part of the being Christian. We do not "attend" worship as though it happens in a single time and space. Worship is a constant in the world. When we gather on Sunday we are not "doing" worship but rather joining in the worship that predates our time.
When we measure/observe worship attendance, we change the nature of worship from something that we are to something that we do. We change Christianity from a lifestyle with a set of values to a social club with a set of activities.