Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Numbers...

3000 people brought into the kingdom in one day.
1 godly deacon lying dead near the feet of Saul
185,000 dead Assyrians
4 men lowering their friend through the roof
12 legions of angels at the Lord's disposal
12 apostles turned the world upside down
70 x 7 We should forgive
5000 men fed with
5 loaves and 2 fishes
3 old rusty nails
2 widow's mites
1 way to reconciliation with God

What does it mean to say "It's all about the numbers?" I was reading Steven Furtick's blog on this subject and it really made me think. It really is about the numbers, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Let me see if I can express what's been going through my mind. Usually when I hear the phrase it's all about the numbers it's coming from the mouth of one of two kinds of people:
Group 1 - Ambitious people who desire to see great change in their community and who are defending their "success" to group #2. They promote "All about the numbers" as a very good and important indicator of God's blessing.

Group 2 - People who desire to see change in their community who are defending their "failure" to group #1. They use "All about the numbers" with a negative connotation to point out that there is more to godly success than a large crowd, a big budget, and a lot of baptisms.
Numbers can be very helpful. They help us evaluate and understand. Sometimes they cause us to give glory to God. Sometimes they tempt us to glory in ourselves. Sometimes God called for a count. Sometimes Satan did.
1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
Should we be more concerned about how many "show up" or how many "grow up?"

The problem with numbers is that the big church can feel their methods are justified because of large numbers. "We must be doing the right thing, we have lots of attendance, lots of money, lots of staff, lots of blog hits, lots of listeners to our podcast" and so on.

But all to often the same intense focus with numbers exists in the small church. "We must be doing the wrong things, we're not growing in size, the budget is sinking, we're struggling to get by."

In such a market driven world numbers are everywhere. Businesses, Politicians, School Testing, Athletes, you name it, are all judged by numbers. It is no wonder that the way we look at the local church is no different. I get frustrated with the numbers. I'm frustrated that our own local church doesn't see more decisions, more changed lives, more giving, etc... I'm also frustrated that sometimes I let numbers dictate my "mood" at the church service. I'm frustrated that sometimes I'm so shallow that I look for the riches of the Pharisees and miss the generous sacrifices of the widow.

People Matter because Numbers matter? No. Numbers matter, because people matter.

Lord, let me be excited about numbers that bring You glory and forgive me when I seek praise or add guilt because of my own pride in numbers.

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