I’ve been working through the outreach chapter of my new book, The Imaginative Church, when I decided to explore the difficulties we run into when thinking about numbers when related to people. I think this might be helpful for my readers today.

Yes, it is about numbers (at least to some degree)

One of the things I hear far too often is it’s not about numbers and of course it’s true. These are precious children of God to whom we’re reaching out. We’d never want to treat them like numbers. They’re special creations with needs and desires and amazing possibilities, not to mention the fact that God has a unique plan and purpose for their lives. People are not numbers and we need to cherish them as the masterpieces they are. No sir, no ma’am, people are not numbers. But numbers are people. Every person you are used to lead to Christ counts. Every person added to the Kingdom, adds something to Kingdom. Every person that comes into your church brings with them gifts and talents and abilities that can be used to make your imaginative church closer to being the church God imagines. Of course I know and believe what John 6:44 says, that no one come to Christ who isn’t drawn by the Spirit, but obedience to Jesus command to go and make disciples has the wonderful byproduct of expanding the reach of your church for Kingdom purposes.

It is for this reason that churches must be faithful in every aspect of disciple making. In the vast majority of cases, disciple making starts with the “therefore go” part, i.e. evangelism. Outreach is a crucial part of the church’s calling. Now I know some will want to cite “wherever two or more are gathered.” That verse is about church leadership and leadership authority, not an excuse to be lax in our duty to be Christ’s witnesses.

I know some will also want to take me to task with the statements about “quality over quantity.” While I will agree that quality is hugely important, I must ask a question. Who appointed us judge over that? Secondly when did quality and quantity become mutually exclusive. They’re not. We are called to both. For a while in the evangelical movement it almost seemed to be a race. We’d get people all fired up, get them to say the sinners prayer and then move onto the next person without a lot of thought to the follow up. It is for this reason that a reminder is in order. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts. Now to be clear, conversion is part of the equation, it’s just not the end of the equation. That’s why Jesus told us to both go AND make disciples. When he made us fishers of men, he did not expect that the people could come into the boat, cleaned, prepped and “Cry-O-Vac sealed for freshness.” No, we are out there to catch them, right where they are, the cleaning comes as Jesus comes in and makes them new creations and as they are discipled by the church, as they grow into disciple making disciples themselves.

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