Assessment and the Kingdom of God | Part 1

January 3rd, 2017

John Lommel, Senior Director of Accreditation and Institutional Effectiveness at LeTourneau, considers the biblical place of assessment in God's Kingdom. In Part 1 of a three-part series, he describes how God can use assessment in forming our organizations into what God desires them to be and foster human flourishing.

Beginning with school exams and continuing throughout one’s career, assessment is as inevitable as death and taxes. Inspectors, accreditors, auditors, government officials, shareholders, consultants, employee evaluations, and even customers add to the growing levels of assessment requirements. The weight of all the different levels of assessment can replace joy with discouragement, passion for indifference, and excitement with boredom. As one that guides an institution through assessment and accreditation processes, I have encountered every type of negative response regarding assessment. 

Is it possible that assessment could be a blessing? What if every evaluation is really about forming our organizations into what God desires them to be? Is it possible that an audit may be a measure of how well we participate in God’s redemptive work in the world? Could employee evaluations be a measure of employee flourishing more than performance?

Before delving into discussions on assessment, we need an understanding of the telos, purpose or goal, of human beings. This telos is what we would consider the “good life.” The “good life” is our vision of human flourishing. “Such a picture of human flourishing will have all sorts of components: implicit in it will be assumptions about what good relationships look like, what a just economy and distribution of resources look like, what sorts of recreation and play we value, how we ought to relate nature and the nonhuman environment, what sorts of work count as good work, what flourishing families look like, and much more” (Smith, 2009, p. 52-53). Our vision of the good life governs what, why, and how we assess. 

If the picture of the good life is the American Dream, then we compare (assess) ourselves with our neighbors and commercials. If the telos of businesses is to maximize shareholder profits, then assessment decisions focus our attempt to increase profits, possibly dehumanizing work. For Christians, the good life exists in following Jesus in obedient discipleship and participating in God’s redemptive work throughout creation. Assessment focuses on how we are participating in the gospel story.

The gospel, or “good news” is the story from creation to the consummation of God’s Kingdom. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to that story. Keeping an understanding of the gospel as solely focused on personal salvation misses the cosmic nature of the gospel and fails to give us a vision of the “good life.” The “good life” only exists within the “Good News.”

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Genesis 1:28).

God created people in God’s image to partner with God in governing over creation (Genesis 1:28). However, Adam and Eve usurped the authority of God, which cracked and marred the image of God and cursed creation to be a place of struggle, turmoil, labor, and death (Genesis 3). People had moved away from the “good life.” God provided another way for people to fulfill their purpose by choosing Abraham (Genesis 12-17) and the nation of Israel (Exodus 19) to be a blessing to the nations and to govern over creation by obeying the Torah. However, Israel continued to usurp the authority of God failing their purpose to do mercy, love justice, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Therefore, God stepped into history by sending Jesus, the Messiah, who rightly rules over creation where Adam, Eve, and Israel had not. In his death, Jesus took the punishment that the usurpers deserved, and in his resurrection God demonstrated that a new creation was taking place. Jesus becomes exalted as the King that the earth needed. If people turn to Jesus, their usurpation will be forgiven, and they will be part of the new society. This society is empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their purpose as children of God in order to participate with God in bringing Shalom to the world. Followers of Jesus await the return of Jesus and the fully realized Kingdom of God in which they will serve God forever (Revelation 22:3) as originally designed.[1] 

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him (Revelation 22:3).

The Good News is that people can be part of the story that provides them with the meaning and purpose for which God created them. This understanding of the gospel truly allows Colossians 3:23 to be fully realized in a person. The story of God’s redemption of the world provides the framework for all forms of assessment. Assessment that is Hope-filled, Shalom-centered, and Love-infused. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23). 

Read Part 2 here. 

Read Part 3 here.

Resources

McKnight, S. (2011) The king Jesus gospel: The original good news revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Smith, J.K.A. (2011). Desiring the kingdom: Worship, worldview, and cultural formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[1] This is a much abbreviated version of the gospel defined in McKnight, S. (2011) The King Jesus Gospel: The original good news revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.  This is a very accessible book about the cosmic nature of the gospel