The Numbers Game

We’ve all had plenty of conversations that go somewhat like this:

Friend: Hey where do you go to church?

You: Well I go to First _______ of Suburban America.

Friend: Oh cool, I’ve never heard of it. How many people do you having going there?

You: Well we usually have 3,000 people or so on a weekend.

Friend: Wow, that is huge. You guys must be doing some amazing things.

And then the conversation goes on having established that you go to a “successful” church and your friend’s church, being not as big, has a little bit of work to do.

Being that I work at what most people would consider to be a large church, I’ve been in these conversations that help feed my inner need for validation and respect. In the end all it does is puff me up full of pride.

David Prior had some great thoughts on this:

“It is frequently found today among and within large evangelical congregations which strive to be larger, better and more famous than each other. The very size of these congregations often produces an envious attitude among not-so-large congregations, an attitude which reveals precisely the same competitive spirit in those churches too…One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome has been the unholy combination of pride-in-numbers in the local church on the one hand, and envy-at-success in denominations on the other. Competitiveness is a cancer. Jesus recognized it as completely hostile to the reality of power which he was teaching and demonstrating.”

It concerns me that many pastors are more worried about having an effective growth model than they are about serving the people under them well.

I’ve heard it said that what you win people with, you win them to.

Think about that for a second.

If we’re winning people to a numbers competition, it is no wonder they aren’t staying in our churches.

Granted numbers matter, because numbers are people. And people matter.

But I challenge you to have those conversations and instead of asking how big someone’s church is, ask what their church is doing. Example: What makes their church unique? What do they love about their church? What is their church doing to advance the gospel?

Those are the things that matter.