Monday, May 2, 2011

numbers matter

I've heard it many times in both prayers and conversations in my 25 five years of preaching that numbers don't matter to God when I comes to church. Someone might say after a great turnout for a worship service, "I know that numbers are not important, but..." Or you might hear in a prayer, "Lord, I know you're not concerned with numbers, but..." Well, here's my question: Where did we get this idea in church that numbers don't matter? It simply isn't a biblical statement.

The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 - your descendants will be like the stars in the heavens and sands on the seashore - large numbers

The people who went into the Promised Land were all numbered (book of numbers)

The church in Acts continually mentioned the number of people who joined the church.

The heavenly scenes in Revelation refer to the mulitudes of both angels and humans around the throne worshipping in large number terms.

It appears that numbers matter to God and I think they matter because God knows each one of those numbers by name and deeply understands their purpose and design for life. I think churches who are growing should stop apologizing for numeric growth. They should be praising God for his work in amazing ways. It's HIS growth after all. A healthy church should grow in numbers because a healthy church is always evangelistic, reaching out to more and more people.

Can numbers be bad? Yes, they are bad when we take pride or trust in our own strength through numbers (like David counting his army) or when we only focus on numbers and not the growth that is taking place with those numbers (rock concerts and sporting events have large numbers of people and if we aren't careful, we can become entertainers instead of a church). So there are ways in which numbers can be bad, but again, God is concerned about numbers which I will illustrate below.
-Higher numbers of baptisms indicate more people beginnning their faith journey in Christ
-Higher numbers of church attendance indicates more people exposed to the community of faith and those who get to hear the word of God proclaimed.
-Higher numbers of people serving indicates more people becoming like Christ in serving.
-Higher numbers of people giving (higher numbers of dollars) indicates more sacrificial and faith giving and more money to use for ministry throughout the world

You get the point...numbers matter...they are important. Numbers aren't the only thing, but let's not act like they don't matter, because biblically speaking they do to God.

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