Monday, February 28, 2011

The heresy of numbers

Let's talk about numbers for a second, shall we? Specifically church numbers, one of the great heresies of our time.

I'm not merely talking about the, shall we say, flourishes in the annual reports. I'm talking about the underlying heresy that numbers represent some eternal truth about a church's faithfulness. A church that is growing is doing something right; a church that is shrinking is doing something terribly wrong.

I hear that all the time, but all that's about is the bottom line; it might or might not have anything to do with faithfulness.

And I think, when I hear people make this correlation between success and faithfulness, have they read the gospels? Not just selected pieces, but the gospels straight through. Because you will notice if you read the gospels that Jesus' following grows and shrinks throughout his ministry. Unless they are saying that Jesus is less faithful when people turn away from him, then there's something else going on here. Most of the time what it seems to be is, is Jesus telling people what they want to hear or not?

Please, please, please, can we stop this? I understand the need to have viable and sustainable ministries, but please let's stop condemning people as somehow not being true to God if turnout is low.

Image by Dave Walker at


revlauriebrock said...

It begs the question: just how many people does Jesus need for something to be considered valuable ministry. Numbers are often an easy way to validate ourselves. But the most valuable things about ourselves and our churches are rarely in the average Sunday attendance or total amounts of money received.

it's margaret said...

you betcha