I have been reading a book by Rick McKinley called "This Beautiful Mess". Rick is the pastor of Imago Dei Church in Portland.

He talks about how in one of the early days of the Imago Dei church plant that the church was meeting in a Baptist church that they rented on Sunday nights. On this particular Sunday night, Portland was playing LA for the NBA Championship. The church that normally averaged 30 in attendance slid all the way down to 12..."and even though I could tell you why our turnout was low, my heart was reeling. Here I was, trying to jump to the next attendance level, and our church had slid. A 60 percent drop in one week. Where was God? What did I do wrong? Why were we both failing?" He later said that as the church grew upwards to 600 and beyond that the fear still existed on any given Sunday of "falling behind in the levels, of failing at the numbers game."

McKinley's words hit me hard," How can I allow church- a community that was created to be a place where Christ loves, heals and redeems- to be reduced to a place where I am defined by numbers?" That hit me hard. The next sentence hit harder. "At the root of so much of that desire is pride, covetousness, a need for control and self-centered striving. SIN in other words." OUCH! and as a worship leader I can relate to McKinley when he says that he has "repented of that and probably will again next Monday."

In a day where we see churches failing because of a lack of numbers, where we see pastors removed because of falling numbers, aren't numbers important? How do we evaluate how well we're doing? Have you heard that statement before? How do we know where we rank in the "Top 20?"

...So, the dilemma... are numbers important?

Just a thought from the back porch...DH

Views: 34

Comment by Al Hilgendorf on November 2, 2010 at 8:51pm
Personally, I think numbers are important, but they're not a sole indicator on the health of a church. It's like economic indicators: there's unemployment, consumer confidence, debt, etc. that, when taken together, indicate the state of our economy. When assessing the health of our church, numbers should be only one factor; and not the weekly up and down numbers either. As a worship leader, I enjoy a full house. It lends itself to an increase in excitement and participation. Frankly, I couldn't even tell you how many people we have on any given Sunday, but I do notice when attendance is down.

Comment by Scott Russell on November 3, 2010 at 4:16pm
This is a tough question and one I've been struggling with personally since I joined the staff of a larger church in the suburbs of Philly a couple of years ago. Numbers were tracked religiously and we measured success based on those numbers and other key measures. Now that I'm part of a brand new church plant it's all but impossible to not be disheartened when attendance drops on any given week. But God has been telling me to trust Him and not numbers. The numbers will come as we're faithful to Him. And I truly believe that as we faithfully follow Him, He'll bring us as many people as we can minister to. IMHO, success isn't measured in the size of the congregation but in the lives touched by God through the church.

The other side of this, though, is that a non-growing church may have lost the attractional aspect of Christ's gospel. Churches that are faithfully reaching out to others with the GOOD NEWS should see increase over time naturally. Those who are not growing may be miring the good news in too many things that truly don't matter (i.e. "religion").
Comment by Toni on November 3, 2010 at 4:44pm
I guess if we judge the life of the church based on who turns up on a Sunday then it's a valid concern. I wonder sometimes if we read the scripture as "Jesus said 'I come to bring you life, and meetings abundantly'".

Our last church took a conscious decision to shift the life & focus of the church from Sunday meetings to housegroups - essentially it was a shift from the relatively impersonal gathering of people to the personal meeting, where people could be real, share and receive.

To me, a church is all about body ministry, and not about what comes from the front - in terms of bringing life to individuals. Yes, what comes from the front is important, but it's at least as important that the people in a church experience the life of Christ for themselves with each other. Paul says that everyone should bring what God has given them, but how can they do that in a meeting of 500 people? It would be chaos! Yet everyone needs an opportunity to minister with the gifting they've been given, and this takes place much more readily in a smaller, more intimate environment.

So for me, the church is the people together, and not just those gathered at a particular meeting. Maybe if the church wasn't about being like a business we'd not see it in these terms?

I hope I've not missed your point.
Comment by David Harrell on November 5, 2010 at 1:02am
Toni...I think you're spot on,
Comment by Gavin Ball on November 7, 2010 at 7:35pm
great post!

i struggle with this question a lot.

one thing i keep coming back to is how Jesus changed th+e world with basically 12 people.
and 12 people who messed up a lot at that!

God bless,
Comment by Greg Moore on November 8, 2010 at 4:34am
Each number on an attendance sheet represents as human face. If the number replaces a human face, then something's radically wrong. A church may be too large for its leaders to each know all of the faces (I'm accompanist for a new choir, and I only know seven or eight by name at this point); but the leaders still need to treat people as people, and somewhere in the place every person ought to be "a person" to somebody.

Wal-Mart thrives on making as FEW relationships as possible, using as few employees as necessary -- everything is stacked neatly on shelves during the night, so you can come in, find it, and buy it, and get a nice smile from the cashier. They grew from nothing to a world power in a short period of time; but if your salvation at the moment is in finding a proper part for your garbage disposal, you need to go over to Searing's Electric, where the clerk walks you over to the correct aisle, removes the proper part from its package, puts the pieces together in front of your eyes and shows you how to make it work and what pitfalls to watch out for. There is no way to provide that kind of ministry except one-on-one. Searing's is not that big a store; they cannot compete with the big boxes because they offer too much service. But whenever I go there, I leave saying to myself, "Yes, there is a God in heaven!"


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