Counting: Poor Labeling Effects
A major effort of Environmental and Health advocates is changing the labels on our products. They are doing this because the label affects the consumption decisions people make. When we count something, or label something in a particular way, we create a sense of importance about that aspect of what we are labeling or counting. If this food product is indistinguishable from that one in all areas except for price, the obvious choice is the cheaper product. If however, there is new information added to the decision making process (it was produced in ways that don’t exploit labor, it is from a local producer, it uses a higher quality standard, etc.), we may choose the more expensive product.
Labeling is a key issue for the Church as well. Dallas Willard has said, “We need to stop counting people and start weighing them.”44 This is a critical task! It will require a lot more effort and ingenuity to take qualitative measurements instead of quantitative ones. However, it is not impossible, and to fail to do so is to fail at our calling.
We must stop counting the wrong things! If we count attendance, offering, and square footage, we are reinforcing the false value of these things, and we will continue to see the Church leveraging our resources to produce more of these things.
We must start counting the right things! A potential list of ‘hidden ingredients’ that we could start placing on the Church label could be thoughtfully created out of the fourteen implication listed in this paper. If we start counting these things we may actually begin to see the Church leveraging our resources (perhaps even intentionally decreasing in attendance, budget, or facility) to pursue these things.
In short, we need to think deeply and critically about the effect our labeling has on Christian holiness, community, and mission.