Resurrection

Tyranny of Metrics

Jerry Muller's book, The Tyranny of Metrics, examines how fixating on creates a number of problems. The author states:, 

This book is not about the evils of measuring. It is about the unintended negative consequences of trying to substitute standardized measures of performance for personal judgment based on experience. The problem is not measurement, but excessive measurement and inappropriate measurement—not metrics, but metric fixation.

The book reads as a cautionary tale for the Church. The more the Church reads reports that "our numbers are in decline" the tighter we cling to metrics. As the Church faces a legitimacy and relevancy crisis in the culture, there is a temptation to fixate on metrics as a way to show legitimacy and relevancy. 

As the author says, metrics are not evil. It is difficult to diagnose a problem if there are not some measurements we can look at over time to make adjustments. It was once said to me that the numbers we look at in the church are similar to the numbers a doctor looks at when you go in for a check up. These "check up" numbers do not tell you everything about your health, but they are a starting point. If your breathing is consistently slow it could mean you are a super healthy marathoner but it could also mean you are close to death.

It is the fixation on metrics that is creeping into the Church that is a cause for concern. 

So what does metric fixation look like? Muller describes it in this way:

  • The belief that it is possible and desirable to replace judgment, acquired by personal experience and talent, with numerical indicators of comparative performance based upon standardized data (metrics)
  • The belief that making such metrics public (transparent) assures that institutions are actually carrying out their purposes (accountability)
  • The belief that the best way to motivate people within these organizations is by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance, rewards that are either monetary (pay-for-performance) or reputational (rankings)

Paradoxically using metrics as the means to gain a sense of clarity of a situation and using metrics as the primary measure of success creates misaligned incentives. For instance, the surgeon who wants to have more patients may talk about how many successful surgeries they have preformed. However, what she/he fails to communicate is that the they only take cases that have a high probably of success to begin with. Thus the "successful' surgeon may not who you want for your complicated surgery. This example might be called, "creaming" the numbers. That is the surgeon counts only the "cream of the crop." The patient and the surgeon have misaligned incentives. 

Muller points out a series of reoccurring flaws in using metrics:

  1. Measuring the things that are easy to measure (such as people in worship) 
  2. Measuring inputs (such as money) over outcomes (such as a transformed life)
  3. Creaming (counting only the best)
  4. Lowering standards (calling a gathering a worship, then add those numbers to weekly worship total)
  5. Omitting or distorting data (such as double counting a person who attends more than worship hour on Sunday)
  6. Cheating (such as when the preacher adds to the numbers because "it felt like there were more people there...")

The reality is metric fixation is killing clergy and creating cultures where churches are dominantly assessed through what is easily counted rather than through the Spirit. How we overcome metric fixation is a difficult but not impossible process. Metrics are only a small picture of reality, but because it is a number it weighted heavier. Metrics give the impression of concreteness and accessibility to situations that are ambiguous and complex. There is a desire to simplify the complexities of the world giving us a false sense of control and understanding. 

Fixating on metrics means that when a church provides their "check up" numbers, we forget that sometimes the heartbeat of the church looks good because there is a pacemaker modifying the heartbeat. Just because a church looks strong in the metrics might mean they are "juicing" in subtle (and even purely motivated) ways. Just because a church looks weak in the metrics does not mean that the church is dying or failing. 

And even if it is dying, the Church of Jesus Christ is not dead for too long because Sunday is coming. 

Thank God this Scripture is false

The final verse in the original ending of the gospel of Mark reads:

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - Mark 16:8

But we know this is false. the women said something to someone otherwise we would not know of this story at all. So this scripture is false. Thank God it is. 

Photo by  Peter Forster  on  Unsplash

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

If my loved one was resurrected I bet that I would be shouting it from the mountain tops! There is a whole industry of books that exist that intrigue so many people. These books share stories of "near death experiences." You may not believe these books, but there is little denial that there is much fear around when people "come back from the dead." So why were these women afraid? 

Perhaps they were afraid because for the most part, stories of people coming back is bad news. The story of Zeus coming back and banishing Cronos is bad news. The Nero Redivivus Legend was the story of how emperor Nero (who had died around the time Mark wrote this gospel) was coming back. The movie depicts Harry Potter's return from the dead was one build on killing (he shot a fireball killing some Death Eaters) and revenge ("We have to kill the snake!").

It may be no wonder the women were fearful when they heard of Jesus' return/resurrection. These women were a part of the group that abandoned, disowned and betrayed Jesus. Maybe they thought he was coming back, like all others who come back from the dead, to bring death and revenge for the sake of "justice." I find it difficult to believe that it would be at this moment the followers of Jesus would have "gotten" his message, when they had yet to understand even while he was alive. I find it difficult to believe that they would have "gotten it" and believed Jesus' resurrection would be a peaceful one. I think they ran because they did not "get it" once more. 

Perhaps the reason the women did say something to someone so that we have this story, is because Jesus does not come back fro revenge or violence. His resurrection is of peace, forgiveness and love. This resurrection, unlike so many others told of old, was Good News. 

So yes, "they said nothing to anyone" is false. Thank God it is. Because if it was true that the women said nothing to anyone and we did not have this story, then Jesus' resurrection would not be Good News, but just more bad news of revenge and death having the final word. 

He is risen, indeed!

WeCroak app and the desert wisdom

Hoping for a better year is rooted in our clinging to life. And while life is good, when we cling to life we fear death. When we fear death then we are not living the Christian life. Christian spirituality is, at its core, about embracing death. Not in a macabre or violent way, but in a way the trusts that death is not the last word. Embracing death removes any fear we have of death and when the fear of death is removed then power of death is gone - because the only power we give death is fear. 

There is a little app on my phone that I have been living with for a few weeks now called WeCroak. I came across this app in a wonderful little write up in the Atlantic and I cannot recommend this app or the Atlantic article enough. The only thing the app does is remind you at five random times in the day that you are going to die. In fact the message looks like this:

https://www.inlander.com/spokane/searching-for-the-meaning-of-death-theres-an-app-for-that/Content?oid=7382589

https://www.inlander.com/spokane/searching-for-the-meaning-of-death-theres-an-app-for-that/Content?oid=7382589

While the creator of this app was inspired by the practice of reflecting on death in Budhaism called Maransati the centrality of death is present in many traditions. Jesus talked about picking up your cross and the desert wisdom placed death at the center of many teachings. For instance here is this clever little story:

 "They told the story of a hermit who was dying in Scetis. The brothers stood round his bed, clothed him, and began to weep. But he opened his eyes and began to laugh; this happened three times. So the brothers asked him, "Abba, why are you laughing when we are weeping?" He told them, "I laughed the first time because you fear death; I laughed the second time because you are not ready for death; I laughed the third time because I am passing from labor to rest, and yet you weep." As he said this, he closed his eyes and died."

In the coming year, may you let go of clinging to life so that you may embrace death - even just a little bit. I know it is scary, however it is when we let go and trust that death is not the last word we experience resurrection. 

At least that is the Gospel.

Mustaches on Babies and Resurrection: That's Funny!

 Alexander Crispin

 Alexander Crispin

It has been said that humans have five senses: touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, and smelling. I would submit that humans universally have a sixth sense: the sense of humor. Just as we all have a different sense of what is “spicy”, so too we all have a different sense of what is humorous and what is not. We all know something is funny when we see it, but we all don’t laugh at the same things or with the same intensity. Whatever we find funny, humor is built on the same principle: incongruence. For instance, if you drew a mustache on a baby that would be an example of incongruence. Now a baby with a mustache may not be that funny to you. The more you see the same incongruity, the less funny it becomes. However, children who see babies with mustaches laugh the most because it is the first time they are seeing this incongruence.

In order to recognize incongruence, you must first have a sense of what is congruent. In order to know what is extraordinary, you must know what is ordinary. Even the lightest chuckle means that you recognize something is “out of sorts” (incongruence). The ability to see what is “out of sorts” is not only being funny, it is also being prophetic. The prophets would point out the things that were out of the ordinary - like when Amos called out those who had so much food they were throwing it away while the people they ruled were starving (Amos 4). Or when Jesus told a parable about workers getting paid the same wage regardless of the amount of time they worked in the field (Matthew 20). We should laugh at these because they are not “normal.” When we experience resurrection, we should laugh because we have been told that it is normal for death to be the end and to have the last word. Resurrection is the great laugh of God in the face of what we think is normal.

It is true that in trying to explain a joke, the joke becomes less funny. Humor is funny like that: it thrives with understanding but diminishes with explanation. Humor is best experienced rather than dissected. Humor is relational rather than clinical. In this way, humor is much like the Christian life: it is to be understood rather than explained. If we struggle with the irony and complexity of understanding humor, then we can safely assume that we may also struggle with understanding resurrection!

And so, may we enter God’s world with a sense of awe and wonder at all the ways it is congruent so that we can have a fuller understanding of the incongruent nature of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we see with prophetic eyes the things in this world that are out of sorts or not normal so that we can work to usher in justice and peace. May we be the people of God who laugh, even in the dark times, knowing that the Light cannot be extinguished.

Source: http://www.rookiemoms.com/parenting-trends...