Even when we say we don’t worry about number of people attending our church or ministry, we really do. We learn to call increase in numbers “fruitfulness” and convince ourselves that health equates to growth. We even get the natural world involved. We say things like “everything that is healthy grows; plants animals, so should our church…” I have to tell you , this analogy is as absurd as our focus on numerical growth.
For one, in the physical world things that grow beyond their design or DNA are unhealthy – often diseased and quick to die. Think about it. Ants don’t continue to grow bigger once they reach maturity. Sure some trees get really big, but they are Redwoods designed to be that big; a Japanese Maple will not shade your neighborhood unless you mutate it. And think of humans. I am a fat guy. The more I eat and don’t move, the bigger I will get. But the bigger I get the less healthy I am. Stop using this analogy; it is stupid.
So what is a fair approach to numerical factors in the church? I don’t know. But maybe it is no focus at all. Instead perhaps we should determine to measure fruitfulness. Is the spiritual maturity in our body. Can a young woman find a mature woman that has or is willing to wrestle with the realities of the gospel or are all of our people maxing out at good works. Are there conversions. Are people realigning their lives to bring glory to God. Is your city changing through the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
Sure these different metrics based on fruitfulness are harder to measure but the reality is that a numerical count of the people in attendance doesn’t tell me anything about the biblical categories of success or fruitfulness. For some this might be permission to be small for others they will need to grow big. But it should be a call to pursue faithfulness as a body or ministry over all. Stop counting.