Published Jan 31, 2018
FRESNO — A “Count the Cost” initiative to help churches gauge the effectiveness of what they’re doing to minister to their congregation and reach their community is spreading statewide.
California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Director Bill Agee met in early January with association directors of missions to describe Count the Cost.
He followed that in mid-January with Count the Cost training for 24 pastors in the Long Beach area, and in late January with some 200 pastors from four language groups in Los Angeles Baptist Association. In early February he planned to meet with pastors and church leaders from Central California.
“There is a great desire for this process and we are just now rolling it out,” Agee told the California Southern Baptist. “I have six members of my staff with me, preparing to do what I do as the need grows.”
Count the Cost works the same for church plants and existing congregations wanting to be strong and healthy, Agee said.
The process is based on Jesus’ words in Luke 14:28 — “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” — and stems from Agee’s belief that it is possible to enhance the predictability of a church’s effectiveness.
Agee also spoke about Count the Cost in mid-January to executive directors of state conventions in the West.
“Bill’s experience of assisting church plants to be successful is off the charts,” said Rob Lee, executive director of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. “His strategy using Kingdom principles through Count the Cost to assist churches, including those in need of revitalization, holds much promise.
“Using Count the Cost to assist churches towards greater spiritual health and vitality will lead to greater Kingdom impact through the local church,” Lee added.
Agee’s unique strategy of determining predictability grew out of his childhood fascination with televised weather reports of tornadoes threatening his native Oklahoma. He wondered how forecasters could know the path of such violent storms.
“As I got older, I realized there were certain conditions necessary for storms to develop,” Agee explained. “When certain ingredients were brought into proximity, a reaction occurred that had predictable results.”
During his years as a church planter in South Dakota, minister of church planting and revitalization at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, GA, director of missions in Phoenix and director of associational strategies for the North American Mission Board, Agee determined the elements that led to strong, healthy churches whatever their size.
“Over the past 25 years — which would include hundreds of churches — more than 96 percent of the churches that have used Count the Cost have gone on to be strong, healthy churches,” Agee said. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the strategy, and in 2015 published a book about his research titled, “The Predictability Factor.”
“In the field of church starting and church revitalization, the ability to identify the key components necessary to produce success can make the difference in the church surviving and thriving, or dying,” according to an amazon.com explanation of the book. “The Predictability Factor identifies the key components of success and why they are such difference makers.”
Count the Cost begins with churches answering 10 questions. The answers are fed into software Agee developed. The five-year (big picture) and monthly (incremental steps) pictures of the church’s journey focuses its outlook. The church generates outreach and leadership development plans. A third party holds the church accountable.
Agee noted that the CSBC healthy church group has transitioned into the church revitalization initiatives team, with a focus on doing “triage” rather than longer-term consultations, Agee said.
“We want them to use Count the Cost to diagnose the big issues the church is facing, and then craft the best way to get the next thing done,” Agee explained. “Most pastors are not able, with family, time constraints, etc., to attempt 10 things. We want them to get the small win, then address the next issue.
“Our (Convention) structure will deal with four areas and not attempt to be the best at everything,” Agee continued. “Count the Cost will be what allows churches in every case to know what the big issues are, and how to take the next stop.”
Agee noted the importance of healthy small churches, and of bivocational pastors who have a family and minister through their employment as well as through the church.
“We will attempt to help small churches be good small churches, not turn into something they’re not,” Agee said. Starting churches and revitalizing existing congregations are equally important to God’s Kingdom work, he said.
“We will seek to start churches in strength, not in survival mode,” Agee asserted. “We will seek to help revitalization churches get the wind of the Spirit back in their sails. We will attempt to make evangelism a priority again.”