Numbers Romance

Modern churches are funny this way. We seek after numbers, the “just get ’em in the door” attitude. This romance with numbers leads us to say and do odd things. I was once at a church that had a smoke machine billowing out its dusty fog while the praise band was leading in worship. Now, two things in that last sentence should draw our attention, yes the fog machine, of course, but also the praise band. I am all for having talented musicians in the church, but the idea of entertainment seems to drive our worship, rather than honoring God. Another example of this would be a church I know that hires a (secular) choir form outside to come in on Sunday mornings. I would rather have a poor singer who loves Jesus, than unbelievers putting on a show.  We get this thought, “If we make it more like a concert, they will come.” Or, maybe you have heard someone say, “If this church didn’t look like a church, more people would come.” These mentalities, in my opinion, have forgotten the great care God took in detailing the building of the Temple (not to mention the world!), there is theology in architecture, and that is the way it is supposed to be. Even the stones cry out in worship. If the pagans can build their skyscrapers to worship business and their stadiums to worship the goddess of professional sports, then we Christians ought to build magnificent churches to represent our worship of a magnificent God.

I am not saying this because I am against counting numbers in the church. People were counted and placed in the church all throughout the book of Acts, however this was always the result of something, never the aim. We do not see Paul admonishing the churches in his epistles to gather as many people in the doors as they can. He does not tell Timothy to make church more “appealing.” And I cannot recall a place in the New Testament where the Lord’s Day was meant to be evangelistic. Rather, it is for the saints. The Apostles, from front to back, call for faithfulness to God and steadfastness in doctrine. When faithfulness to God and steadfastness in doctrine happened in the book of Acts, great fear fell over people and many were added to the church (Acts 2:42-43; 5:11; 19:17).

Numbers are important, however. It takes people to keep the lights on, for example. But what I am attempting to point out is that the numbers added to the church is out of our hands (Acts 2:47). The numbers of the church should not be our worry, but it should be our prayer. Our task is to cast seed and water (1 Corinthians 3:6) and let God do the growing. Our task is to speak of Christ’s Lordship, baptize the nations, and teach them to obey God (Matthew 28:18-20). We can strive all we want to make church more appealing or palatable (which I do not suggest, and is different from being hospitable), but the Spirit who changes the hearts of men cannot be manipulated. He moves where He wills (John 3:5-8) and trying to grab Him is like the wind slipping through your fingers.

All this to say, stop worrying about numbers. God grows His church through the faithfulness of His people (John 13:35).

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One comment

  1. mikewittmer · · Reply

    Good points, Jonah. I often wonder if many of these “seeker” churches aren’t suffering from an inferiority complex. If we were content with who we are in Christ, we might be content to be ourselves and not put on a show.

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