I offer a confession–as a preacher I do think frequently about numbers. Each week as I see Sunday class and worship attendance numbers I usually either will praise God at the healthy numbers or wonder where everyone was–if the numbers are low. I can’t seem to help it.
More than once in conversations about such numbers I have been gently reprimanded–told that perhaps I think too much about it. Maybe so. But numbers do represent souls and are a way to consistently measure the health and growth of a church body.
Throughout history God has put an emphasis on numbers as a measuring tool. Luke was not shy about including the number of conversions in the book of Acts. Of course, if the focus is on numbers-for-numbers-sake for self-glorification, then that is a problem. King David realized this the hard way (see 1 Chronicles 21).
For all of my preaching ministry I have always desired for numbers to increase because I have always desired the church to grow. Increasing numbers to me represent the kingdom of God expanding, more people coming to the Lord, and more people actively involved in worshipping and serving him. I praise God when I see the church grow and I thank him for it! I know it is about more than just numbers (has to be!), but numbers nonetheless do reflect the growth.
When numbers decrease it has always alarmed me. It disappoints and concerns. Often I take it personally (this is irrational I know, but I think it is a common preacher problem) and wonder what I have done to cause the dwindling numbers.
God has given me the privilege to preach in small, medium and larger churches. In all of them I prayed over their numbers. In all I wanted and want more people to come to Christ and faithfully participate in his church. It is not for bragging rights or my glory, but for God’s. And it is for the sake of souls. I want more people enjoying the hope I have in Christ.
So I suppose I will continue on wrestling with the numbers–trying to find the right balance and attitude. I realize that God knows who is his and has a much bigger count going on than I can imagine (1 Kings 19:18).
But for now–if you were in worship Sunday, I rejoice that you were. If not, you were greatly missed you. You do count!