Numbers, numbers, numbers. So much of what we encounter in our world is based on numbers.
- McDonalds is fixated on the number of hamburgers they’ve sold.
- Some people are obsessed with the number on the scale.
- Large corporations strive unscrupulously for sales and profit numbers to increase.
- And sadly, some pastors measure their success by the number of seats filled in the pews.
This is not to say that some barometer for effectiveness isn’t warranted or helpful, but what we measure and how we use the information is what matters.
You know the saying, “Numbers speak volumes”? Or how about, “There is power in numbers”? We have been trained our entire lives that more is better.
Romans 5:6 tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
The bible doesn’t specify how many ungodly there are. There was no numeric qualifier for the decision God made when sending Jesus to atone for our sins.
I imagine pastors have a particularly difficult time reconciling what they feel called to do and measuring the success in which they do it. As much as all Christians want to share the word of God and witness so all can be saved, pastors have an even greater vested interest in this; it’s their ‘job’ after all. I suspect they feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to try and save all they can. But the truth is none of us, not even pastors, save anyone.
Do bigger numbers correlate to more salvations? Quite possibly, but is the number proportionate to the congregation size?
Is there a connection between bigger numbers and increased tithing amounts? Very likely, but does the extra space and staff needed for a larger congregation eat up all the additional money…and then some?
Is the pastor caught up in numbers for the celebrity of it all? Do they feel the need to compete with other churches to be the biggest, mistakenly thinking that bigger always means better?
What’s a pastor to do? Refocus on what shepherding the flock means to God. Think about Jesus’ ministry and develop goals based on what ministry success should look like. Has pride reared its head? If so, extinguish it ASAP! Perhaps the church budget needs an overhaul and this is driving the need for numbers. Time to address creative ways to manage the money you do have rather than just striving for more.
I realize this can be a complicated matter and there may be a multitude of mitigating factors which have fueled the pastor’s focus on numbers. Overall, though, a mindset of ‘back to basics’ and ‘keeping it simple’ can provide an obedient return to a God lead, faith based and fruitful ministry.
I am reminded of a popular verse.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
No big numbers here, just one very, very important person.
Sometimes, it’s not in the numbers at all.
I share this with you as a recent assignment in my life coaching course really caused me to pause and evaluate my pastor and place of worship. Many of us are blessed with pastors who are already doing it right, but as Christians and congregation members, we have a responsibility in paying attention. We are called to evaluate what we support and subscribe to. I pray you will take time and consider the same in your church as well.
Blessings to you!