Friday, March 10, 2006

How Big Is Your Church?

Pastoral success is in numbers and so we hear the question often and are judged accordingly. In fact, we judge ourselves as to how successful we are as numbers increase or decrease. I don't think it is just a "pastor problem" but also a "pew problem" - we are in a good church if it has good programs or a church that is moving forward if numbers are increasing- everyone wants to be part of this church!

I do not disagree that numbers should be noted - after Peter preached his first sermon we are told how many are saved. But when they become the focus and measure of success, the church begins to judge her efforts by worldly standards (must have a good report to our "shareholders"). What really is the "measure of success" for preacher and congregation? Is it not found in the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians2.19: For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not You? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. Paul will then speak of how much he wants to see the believers so they sent Timothy ... to strengthen and encourage you in the faith (verse 3) because Paul was ...afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts would have been useless (verse 5).

But Timothy reported to Paul good news about their faith and love so Paul writes: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. Trials and persecution had not dimmed the Thessaloniuan believer's faith and love as they stand firm for the Lord.

What was Paul's joy? What was his meaure of success? Was it not found when his people were standing firm in face of temptation? When they were strengthened in holiness and love? When they were abounding in love and good works? When sinners were being saved?

So yes, how big is your church? but more importantly, are your people standing firm and bearing fruit in spite of opposition and temptation? Are you part of church that is not only growing but a church that is looking you square in the heart and challenging and encouraging you to stand firm for Christ in all circumstances?

Unlike the world, there is not safety in numbers in the church; our safety is found in Jesus - alone.


JLF said...

I can't help but think of a passage I read in either Lectures to my Students or The Christian Ministry... the author (either Spurgeon or Bridges) was basically asking why we would want more people in our church, as a pastor. After all, if we're accountable to God for our care of all the souls in our charge, should we not fear our numbers growing "too big" for us to care for all those for whom we must give account?!

Such a different perspective than what we typically get in today's purpose-drivel churches.

Son of Man said...

I am a fan of this blog.