My church still takes attendance (I guess most churches do). Last week seemed pretty full (for us) so I was a little shocked when I saw a not terribly high number on the sheet. I checked with someone who knows such things to see if there was an error. She confirmed the count and then said something you might be thinking, “Don’t become obsessed with numbers.” She was right to a degree and there is a little bit of a fleshly thing in me that I do need to guard against. I can’t afford to get my validation from how many people show up on a given Sunday and it would be very wrong for my church to assess my performance in that way as well, but there is also a larger issue.
You see, if as a pastor, I begin to treat people as numbers, I should get the right foot of fellowship from my church as soon as possible. I would deserve to be fired. People are not numbers, people are people, and they deserve to be treated as such, especially in the church. Everyone should be treated as individuals and with honor and respect. I strive to make sure that I always do that, and I think I succeed most of the time.
People are not numbers but numbers are people and this cannot be overlooked. Our attendance on a given Sunday ranges from 50 to 80, not bad for a small church and the people are faithful as all get out. Our area population is about 5,000, with nearby communities we could also draw from. This means our church accounts for about 1 percent of our population. Again people are not numbers, but numbers are people and in a world that needs Jesus so desperately, every church would want to see their numbers rise. Rising numbers means more people are hearing the truth that sets men free. The church is a body, a living organism and living organisms grow and reproduce. So am I fixated on numbers? To some degree, yes, and you should be too. We are called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Now of course it’s more than numbers because people aren’t numbers. We need to be exceedingly relational, after all we are called to do more than just make converts. We are called to do the hard work of making disciples, fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. In order to do that properly, guess what we need (in every church, not just mine). We need more people.
At the end of the day, a big part of the reason the church exists is for the people outside it. We exist to take the Gospel to the world. There are other functions as well but outreach is primary. Before people can become disciples, they have to hear God’s Word and that often means entering a local church. There’s this really great church growth book that says these words:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”
That book is called the Bible, specifically Romans 10:14-15. How will you use what you have been given, your creative gifts and talents, as well as anything else, to take the good news to the world and bring people in to the church?
People are not numbers, but numbers are people, and in this world, we need all the people we can get.