Egmont Mika

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers!

Church leaders tend to be highly interested in numbers.

Typically, they ask questions like, How many members does the church have, how high is the weekly attendance and how much did the offering bring? And they want to know how these numbers develop from week to week, month to month and year to year.

Admitted, statistics are useful. They enable us to measure and to compare, to set up goals and to stay focussed, and they make us feel successful whenever numbers go up. Numbers seem to show a church’s growth in a reliable, objective way. At least, this is what we tend to think.

Yet, there is a problem.

How can we ever measure essential spiritual qualities like faith and love, fear of the Lord, obedience, maturity and Christlikeness, community and the power of a church’s testimony by counting numbers?

How can we ever find out anything about the quality and the actual spiritual outcome of a church by just measuring quantities?

For instance, does the amount of hours that someone spends participating in church activities say anything about the quality of this person’s discipleship? Or can numbers about a church’s widespread popularity and numerical and financial success be translated into significant impact - in terms of fulfilling the church’s mission to make disciples?

If spiritual qualities and the actual outcome of the church are not included in our statistics, what do those statistics really say? And what do we accomplish by maximizing these numbers?

In the light of the church’s mission, the ultimate question for a leader and for every follower of Jesus must be, Do we really make disciples of Jesus or are we just having programs? And furthermore, do those who have been discipled, in their part, go on and make disciples? These questions are crucial, as they touch the very nerve of the church’s mission.

In this perspective, making a handful of quality disciples may by far outweigh a thousand more names of members or attendees on our lists. After all, disciples are the kind of result that Jesus is expecting. We can’t fool him.

Yet, are we possibly fooling ourselves?