I was in a church meeting once, when a committee member said, "The bottom line is that we need to increase our membership."
He meant that the bottom line, for the continued sound fiscal existence of the church was that we need more paying members. I hope -- I sincerely believe -- that that is NOT our bottom line.
The presenter at the meeting I attended in Austin said, "We are not here to save the institution; we are here to use the institution."
We do not serve the church; we serve God. And what does God want us to do?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)I think our job is to figure out how to do that. What does it look like in our neighborhoods to love our neighbors? How can the church help us to accomplish that goal. How can the church be used to make that divine directive a reality.
If we do that, then the church will be fulfilling its purpose. We won't have to worry about membership, because the church will thrive.
And if that becomes our goal, how do we measure our progress toward that goal? It becomes less about how many people attend worship service each week (although we can still measure that, if it accomplishes something in our intentional striving toward the new goal), and more about measuring how we are reaching out. Loving. Fulfilling our purpose as a church.