Church planters are a curiously goal-driven group. Give us a numerical goal worth pursuing and we will focus the entirety of our energy toward it considering no sacrifice too great. Goals give us a buzz. We know there is psychological help available for us, but for now we will skip the therapy and enjoy being off-balanced. We’re okay with that.
Universally, we goal-lovers have something in common: we love the refrain, “Those who fear numbers usually have none to report.” What a beautiful mantra. It emasculates the voices that ask us to consider some deeper attributes. Wimps.
Yet sometimes there remains an inflexible few who still look at us goal-oriented people with a slight air of skepticism. Inconceivable. For those skeptics, we bring out the big artilleries and declare, “But sister, every number represents a blessed soul that God loves.”
High five. Case closed. We have yet again validated, our neurosis with numbers.
Most church planters wouldn’t confess to this, but sometimes we can be a pretty insecure bunch. You gather a group of us in a conference room, hit the timing feature on your smartphone, and start counting the seconds until the first conversation goes the way of, “So, how many are you running these days?” A question designed exclusively for the exercise of our insecure egos. Somewhere in our thinking exists a belief that the quantity we have gathered in our rented sacred space is in direct correlation to the Kingdom impact we have.
How then do numbers and impact correlate? Remember Jesus’ teaching on the mustard seed and the yeast? Numbers and influence correlate only to the extent of our participation in God’s Kingdom agenda. A band small in number and singular in Kingdom devotion have always been the ones who have changed the world. Size matters only in as much as it relates to the obedience of our faith.
A band small in number and singular in Kingdom devotion have always been the ones who have changed the world.
So really, when we ask the question, “How many are you running?” we are simultaneously asking, “How many are you sitting?” Sitting in a sacred semi-circle and extending the Kingdom of God can be two very different activities. In fact, often they are polar opposites. If “running” does not involve transforming our priorities, then we have missed out.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)
Defining the goal
What if a church planter owned as his supreme goal the advancement of the Kingdom of God instead of the numbers he gathered? How would his metrics for self-evaluation be transformed?
The “how many are we sitting?” question might more accurately be asked as, “How many are we sidelining?” If the sacred gathering is the exclusive and premier metric we track – we might want to rethink our motivation for planting a church. The radical idea of the body of Christ was eternally designed for far more than sitting and serving its sacred self.
What if a church planter owned as his supreme goal the advancement of the Kingdom of God instead of the numbers he gathered?
How many have we effectively convinced their spectator-like attendance and their tithe is all that God is ever going to hold them accountable for on the Day of Judgment?
And so we keep score; nickels and noses are the tokens that count. And that is all we count. All the while praying for better year-over-year returns. Our investors are restless. But has a pesky question like this one ever nagged at your spirit, “Who can rent a high school gymnasium big enough to contain all that God desires to do?” If it has, perhaps there is room for an alternative reality that leads toward a truly Kingdom-centric design.
Published September 9, 2015