I hate the numbers question.
As a pastor who works significantly with youth, often I am asked; “how big is your youth group?” or “how many kids do you have attending?” Most of the time it is a simple matter of curiosity where people are wholeheartedly attempting to undertsand my world better. On other occassions people are fully and completely sizing up my youth group. The bigger the number I give, the more impressed they are.
So what? If my numbers don’t impress you does that mean we aren’t the cool church?
And then there is the money.
I am part of a national conference that is struggling to meet it’s budget and as a result has been forced to make many painful decisions. If we don’t give enough we can’t sustain all the wonderful ministries currently participating so faithfully in the mission of God.
It seems that the common answer is more people. More people means more money, more vibrant youth groups, and way cooler churches. To get more people, the natural next step is to create evangelistic programs or strategies to get more people.
If there is a persistent and consistent pressure to make numbers, whether it’s a hope to have the big church, or a youth group that is bursting with students, or a conference that meets it’s budget, the numbers seemingly become more important than the act of evangelism itself. The pressure just becomes so intense that healthy evangelism is replaced with a desire to meet goals. Meeting goals are fine. But it becomes complicated when we use evangelism as the holy savior to get us there.
The relationships forged by sharing the gospel of numbers is significantly different the good news of Jesus. People become products, or projects and their broken humanity is merely plugged into the cogs of our ministries that need people with the hope that the new people will donate.
Don’t get me wrong. Numbers are important. But when we perverse our evangelism in a way that seeks to get numbers rather than share the fullness of Jesus for the sake of sharing the fullness of Jesus we become master syncretists forging a new gospel of numbers. We become evangelists for a different ‘god’ that we hope will bring us to a ‘promised land’ of meeting our numbers. It kind of reminds me of the golden calf story in the book of Exodus.
What do you think? Can a connection between evangelism and numbers be a healthy one?
When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”
– Exodus 32:1