We are a numbers driven people. I overheard several conversations yesterday between folks discussing the number of those who died as a result of last weekend’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I also heard several discuss how many boats were lost on the Northern California and Southern Oregon coast as the tsunami came ashore last Friday morning.
College basketball fans are either excited or enraged by the rankings assigned their team for the NCAA Tournament that begins this week. Other sports fans are constantly talking about scores and statistics, aka numbers.
Pastors and church leaders are also numbers conscious. How many attended worship? What were the offerings? How many responded? How many have you baptized this year? And on and on it goes…talking about, bragging about, or being discouraged by numbers.
Yes, I know that the God considers numbers important…after all, there is an entire book of the Bible called Numbers! In Acts 1-6 we read about numbers in the early church…120 in the upper room, 3,000 conversions, and so on.
I confess I am not immune. Attendance, giving, and those kind of numbers can impact how I view my day, how I view the week, and how I make decisions about which projects to undertake and which projects to put off till later.
Yet I wonder if all the fuss about numbers is as important as we make it out to be. For example, in last years NCAA basketball tournament a fifth ranked Butler made it all the way to the final game and was one shot away from winning the title. Most likely the churches planted by the apostle Paul never grew to ‘mega-church’ status. In the 18th century the Moravians, certainly not of mega-church size, began a prayer vigil that lasted one hundred years and sparked a world-wide mission effort.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Large gatherings of people coming together in the name of Christ are important. But so are the handfuls that gather with a purpose of seeking God for their lives, their families, and their communities. Just as important as numbers is the temperature of those gathered together. I have no way to decipher how large the church of Laodecia was by the time John received his revelation of Jesus to that church (Rev 3:14-22). What we can know is the spiritual temperature of that church. Jesus challenged them, “I wish that you were cold or hot.” Their lukewarmness was their problem, not their attendance, not their offerings, not their baptismal record.
So, maybe the real question we ought to ask…how passionate are you for the things of the Lord? What’s your spiritual temperature? It seems that those who are having the most spiritual impact in our world are those who are white-hot in their passion for Jesus Christ!
May we be known not for our numbers but for our passion!