A few weeks ago I ran into a pastor from a church and I asked him how things were going. To which he replied, “Going absolutely great, our numbers are way up and giving is better than its ever been!” In my head I was thinking that the Catholic church’s numbers and giving are probably way up with the announcement of a new pope, so are they who preach a gospel of works “doing absolutely great too???” So I asked this pastor about 10 more questions about the church’s ministry and over about 10 minutes or so, all that came up was numbers of people and dollars.
So is church numbers and church finances the main determining factor of success? Of growth? Of God’s blessing? Or is it a factor at all? Paul never writes to a church in the New Testament and asks them “How many you running?” or “Are those giving thermometers getting filled with red yet?” No, he is only concerned with things like preaching the true gospel, dividing the Word of God correctly, being focused on sound doctrine, discipleship that helps believers grow in holiness, and faithfulness to using your spiritual gifts for the edification of the church.
Church growth is God’s job, not ours. If we think we can manufacture or engineer growth than we are competing with Jesus and not allowing Him to do or not do what is in His providence. If you cannot be faithful and content with pouring into 20 people in your church than frankly, you do not deserve 200 or 2,000 or 20,000.
It is easy to grow a crowd – our seeker-sensitive and prosperity-gospel comrades have proven that. It is tougher and more God glorifying to be content and work hard for the Lord through godly lives and the faithful preaching of God’s Word.
Listen to this nine-minute clip of Mark Dever speaking about church growth and numbers…he does an excellent job explaining the Biblical and logical-view on this issue: