Brethren, It’s shocking whenever you hear brethren start to count how many cars, houses etc they have or even worse ministers of the gospel reporting their statistics as external evidence of success. There is nothing wrong having all these things after all God blessed you with them. Counting also isn’t always pride, right? At one point in time God commanded Moses to take a census of the people (Numbers 1:1-46; 26:1-62), and for very good reasons (to register the fighting men, to determine per-tribe ransom for servicing the temple). Here at MTM Church, we have to keep track of certain numbers to make sure we’re good stewards of the resources God entrusts to us.
The only problem is when you focus on the numbers or things you have achieved or done just like Nebuchadnezzar did and was punished for it by God (Daniel 4:30). Nowadays when most men of God find a way to mention the numbers in public, and often, it comes across as boasting in one’s own strength; it’s worldly for a true Christians to do this instead we should be clothed with humility and meekness for Christ’s sake.
A case in point was when David numbered his troops, taking pride in his military might. For him, he could see and count at a human level all the external, visible signs of his success but ONLY God knew the true condition of Israel (2 Samuel 24:17).
But just like David’s pride in counting the troops, we too can tend to grow proud when we look at the stats (emphasis on the visible, external, measurable) e.g.the baptism numbers, church attendees, book sales, etc. Big numbers, or maybe just upward-trending numbers, can flatter. They’re like the applause of a crowd, patting you on the back and making you feel good about what you’re doing. Numbers can easily lead you into a false sense of security, keeping you from the hard and painful work of self-examination before the Word of God and full reliance on Him.
Most Christians and even churches justify their right standing with God by pointing to external, visible signs of success. They assumed, that God’s work (which is invisible) is visibly manifest, something that could be perceived, measured, and counted. They even believe that, if it worked, if it was successful, if it was mighty, if it was manifestly glorious, then God was in it.
What they don’t know is that the devil can also perform miracles “False messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God’s chosen ones.” (Mathew 24:24). Remember also that the Devil can give you things. “The devil said to him, “I will give you all this if you will bow down and worship me.”(Matthew 4:9).
It’s embarrassing to some churches and men of God couch their growth stats in pious sounding phrases like, “It’s so amazing how many churches God is planting through us,” or, “I’m so humbled to see that ___ people made decisions for Christ,” or, “I was humbled to be speaking to ___thousand people on Sunday,” and on and on.
This is holier than thou attitude or the pharisee and tax collector attitude (Luke 18:9-14), which is completely contrary to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, is proof positive of being puffed up. Those who are puffed up are blinded to their error and hardened to any correction. So, let’s not be preoccupied with signs of visible success which can completely make us puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
Learn to live by faith and not by sight; that is to say, stop counting! God’s work is largely invisible, growth takes take time, and wisdom is generally not recognized by her contemporaries, but by all her children (Luke 7:35).
We don’t deny the human element, even as we affirm divine initiative. God uses means and we’re part of the means He uses to do His work, right? As Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” And it’s important to see that the apostolic pattern of planting and watering were not according to head knowledge, “the end justifies the means” approach. Paul, Apollos, and every other exemplary minister of the apostolic age did ministry according to the means God prescribed (i.e., Ephesians 4:11-16) and not according to what seemed reasonable to the culture (i.e., 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
The end goal, as well as the means employed to achieve that end, are important to God. So, when we use head knowledge-oriented church growth principles to plant and water, we go against the grain, planting and watering according to the pattern of the flesh rather than the power of the Spirit. That’s wrong. We, along with Paul, want the faith of those who hear us to rest, not “in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).
That’s what David learned when God brought a deadly judgment against Israelites. “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done?” (2 Samuel 24:17). Our today’s church leaders should not only repent of their own sin of counting but should take special care of the Lord’s sheep.
I know most of us are busy trying to justify their position by saying it no me or our church. So, just to help you think it through, about this matter here’s a quick list you can use to evaluate yourself and your ministry for signs of pragmatism(head knowledge, human reasoning on matters of God)
1.If you believe evangelism rather than edification is the purpose of the church.
2.If you are trying to figure out what works in evangelism and church growth, and you’re using resources less than 100 years old to answer the question.
3.If you turn to psychology rather than theology to help you understand the human response.
4.If you think the feel of your church, the music you play, and what you wear makes it more/less likely for an unbeliever to believe the gospel.
5. If you are often counting your numbers (e.g., number of visitors, baptisms, and “decisions for Christ,” visitors to your website, sermon downloads, or any other countable sign of growth) to prove a point or make you feel “religious”or”holy”
6.If you feel the need to quote your numbers to establish your credibility i.e proof who you are.
7.If you are more concerned with the opinions and comfort-level of unbelievers who visit your church than you are with the opinions of believers in your church.
8.If your church youth program is designed to accommodate and entertain young people rather than teach and confront them.
9.If the youngsters set the tone and determine the culture of the church.
I know that’s a short, somewhat simplistic, and woefully incomplete list, but hey, it’s a start. If any of those points are true of you or your church, you might need to repent. Start by confessing your sin of relying on the flesh and using fleshly methods, and study the Scripture to set a positive course for your ministry.
Learn to live by faith and not by sight; that is to say, stop counting! God’s work is largely invisible, growth takes take time, and wisdom is generally not recognized by her contemporaries, but by all her children (Luke 7:35). Let us all strive to “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). In an attitude of humility and repentance, we’ll truly find the grace and blessing of God.