Have you ever wondered why the vast majority of growing churches today are out of the mainstream? In fact all of the mainline denominations are in decline. I have a theory on why. Well, it’s more than a theory; it’s what I have observed in working with both mainline and non-mainline churches for the past 25 years. Want to know what my more than a theory is?

The answer has become simple the last few years. Non-mainline churches tend to measure different things than mainline churches do. I’ve long been a proponent of “you get what you measure.” If a church measures the wrong thing, it is more likely to decline than if it measures the right thing. And if it doesn’t measure anything it is sure to fail.

Hopefully you are asking, “What is the right thing to measure?”

I’ve noticed that most of the thriving churches I’ve either worked with or followed measure one thing more than any other – adult baptisms. The number of adult conversions is the most important measurement a church can focus on, and most mainline churches do not focus on that number. Most mainline churches focus on getting members. They are institutionally focused whereas most non-mainline churches are Kingdom focused.

Case in point. When I left the church I served for 24 years, I was replaced with a pastor who had never had a church over 200 in worship and whom the official gurus wanted to run for Bishop. One of the best ways for this pastor to be elected Bishop was by being the pastor of a large church. Within five years, this pastor led the church into an 80% decline in worship attendance. Some of my mainline friends called to console me over the loss. I told them I wasn’t upset because most of those people were now attending two other churches and the Kingdom didn’t have a hiccup.

Ask most mainline pastors what size their church is and they will respond by telling you how many members they have.

The pastor of the church I love to attend gave away somewhere around 4 million dollars in prizes one Sunday morning. When I called him to ask why in the world he had done that his response was, “We baptized 1500 people as a result of the giveaway this morning.”

What’s interesting about my pastor is that he doesn’t just measure baptisms; he lives and breathes more conversions. Everything revolves around bringing people to Christ and then helping them grow in their faith. This passion for spiritual growth is found in most non-mainline churches. In fact a recent Pew study showed that there is more servant participation in megachurches (there are more non-mainline megachurches) than there is in smaller churches (most mainline churches are smaller than non-mainline churches).

So where’s your passion? Is it in getting more members or having more conversions? Where your passion is, there you will find what you ultimately measure.

Question: How have you seen the “ultimate measurement” played out in your church? Share your stories in the Comments section below.