Image your car without the dashboard – nothing to indicate your speed, fuel level, engine temperature, or oil pressure. You’d probably feel like you were driving blind. But all those warning lights and gauges can also become a source of distraction and even paranoia when something is not right. I remember years ago when organizational dashboards became a big thing among non-profits. I was fully on board with it, enthusiastically adopting elaborate systems of key performance indicators and reporting mechanisms covering every aspect of our operations. As more and more indicators were added, our dashboards began to look like complicated airplane control panels, confusing to even the best pilots. We may have been getting carried away, but at least we weren’t flying blind.
But as useful as these dashboards were, I noticed that we could maintain all our systems while somehow completely failing on our mission. After all, you can execute a perfect flight plan to the wrong destination or keep a car in mint condition simply by leaving it parked in the garage. So what’s the point? It’s this – don’t let your indicators become an idol. Whatever it is they are measuring is probably only loosely connected to your real purpose. Even well-formulated indicators can only provide clues that you’re on the right path. Consider the Bible’s teaching about good works, righteous living, and the fruits of the Spirit. They are not ends in themselves to be pursued by the faithful. They are only the bi-products of an authentic relationship with God – indicators of a spiritual rebirth that has occurred through faith in Christ (James 2, Galatians 5). So, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re driving well just because you’ve got a clean and quiet dashboard. You might be efficiently moving in the exact wrong direction. And if you’ve got some warning lights on, don’t stress. Don’t ignore them either. It might be time for some maintenance or it might be an occasion to ask the question – what exactly is this measuring and how does that thing, whatever it is, help us get to where we’re going?