Can we stop claiming it’s not about numbers while at the same time advertising our worship attendance?
Have you ever asked the same question? Perhaps you were at a conference featuring the pastor of a large church. The short bio in the program informed you of the thousands attending the church. The host who introduced the speaker repeated the information. Then, shortly into the presentation, the pastor inferred or declared that “it’s not about numbers.”
But, if it’s not about numbers, why share them with me?
Now I have no problem with keeping track of attendance. After all, the Bible has an entire book dedicated to Numbers and the writers of the Gospels recorded attendance figures at several events. Plus, worship attendance may serve your congregation as a significant internal measurement of effectiveness. But advertising our numbers while claiming it’s not about the numbers?
Maybe the key is when we count? Do we count after the miraculous work of the Lord, like counting leftover baskets of bread by which we glorify the Lord? Or do we follow the example of Gideon and count before God works a miracle (Judges 7), knowing that by so doing we will be tempted to think that we, not God, gave us the victory?
I have always struggled with numbers, and I am a baseball guy. I can’t get enough stats on my favorite players. I think I have struggled with numbers because, while the Scriptures includes many stats, I have discovered that numbers don’t tell the whole story (though Americans tend to think they do). So many factors influence numbers, most of which have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
Plus, given my propensity for pride, numbers tempt me to think more highly of myself than I ought. More importantly, when measuring the ministry of Jesus by the numbers, we can only conclude, according to contemporary standards, that is was one big failure.
So I think it best we be careful with what we do with our average weekly worship attendance, as well as other numbers we may be tempted to broadcast. Seems to me that, in this case, the less we say the better.