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The Numbers Game

March 4th, 2014 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in Hope Chapel Hill Country | What I'm learning about church planting

Pastors say it all the time when assessing their flock. Church members try to avoid sounding braggadocios when speaking about it. Christian leaders warn never to make this your focus.

What am I talking about?

Have you ever heard the phrase: “It’s not about the numbers.”?

I’m here to say it is about the numbers.

Because numbers are souls.

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I do understand and wholeheartedly agree with Jesus when he declared, …”I will build my church….” I trust him to do this. He brings the people and my focus should not be on how many come each Sunday. Still, numbers matter.

This is what Charles Spurgeon said about it:

I am not among those who decry statistics, nor do I consider that they are productive of all manner of evil; for they do much good if they are accurate, and if men use them lawfully. It is a good thing for people to see the nakedness of the land through statistics of decrease, that they may be driven on their knees before the Lord to seek prosperity; and, on the other hand, it is by no means an evil thing for workers to be encouraged by having some account of results set before them. I should be very sorry if the practice of adding up, and deducting, and giving in the net result were to be abandoned, for it must be right to know our numerical condition. It has been noticed that those who object to the process are often brethren whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humiliate them …. The fact is, you can reckon very correctly if the figures are honest, and if all circumstances are taken into consideration if there is no increase, you may calculate with considerable accuracy that there is not much being done; and if there is a clear decrease among a growing population, you may reckon that the prayers of the people and the preaching of the minister are not of the most powerful kind. —“The Soul Winner”

When people show up at Hope Chapel Hill Country, they will hear the Word of God preached, have an opportunities to serve, to give, and to worship in an environment geared specifically for believers. They will be built up, spurred on and straightened out. They will be prayed over, hugged warmly, encouraged greatly.

Most of all they will have the chance to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why it is about numbers. Because more people may mean more disciples, more obedient servants, more gospel witnesses.

So, I will do my part: inviting, cajoling, and pressing people to attend on Sunday, trusting that God will bring to him all that are His.

As I count, I will count on Him.

The more the merrier.

And sometimes, holier.

Read the week-to-week attendance of Hope Chapel Hill Country by clicking here.

Image credit: SacredSandwich.com

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3 Responses

  • Jon Speed says:

    I think I understand your heart in this. Where I differ from this is what do you do as a planter when you do everything as Biblically as you can and there is not much happening in the way of attendance? I’ll tell you what one might be tempted to do: quit.

    We’ve been here since September 2011. Right now we average 20 and have had very similar numbers to yours, with highs in the 30’s-40’s. We’ve had about ten regulars leave over sin issues and theological issues after they had been here for a year.

    I’m in a much different culture than you are, being in the northeast (Syracuse, NY). Here, I think the best we can hope for as we preach verse by verse through books of the Bible and speak clearly about everything the Bible addresses, is a church that averages somewhere between 50-100. Maybe 200 under the right circumstances. And here, to get to 50-100, it takes about ten years. Most planters quit before then because of the discouragement or because the supporters don’t see the nickles and noses they want to and they pull support.

    There’s a guy planting in the area who is getting huge numbers. He’s in a poor neighborhood and he’s been giving away lots of free resources. He’s not Reformed (that I know of), he’s not teaching through the Scriptures verse by verse, but he’s having that kind of success. He’s only been here since April and already has about 50 each week. As a result I face enormous pressure to do the same thing. Stop talking about abortion, stop preaching the hard truths, and do more outreach that is not gospel centered. That’s where this kind of thing can go and does more often than it doesn’t.

    Having said that, I agree with the heart of this; I want to see many come to Christ. I do more evangelism than any other planter they’ve had here with the SBC by their admission. I long to see it. But I want to see real conversion as I know you do. Therefore, my emphasis is faithfulness to the Word and the Lord first and foremost and not numbers. I don’t believe you do any differently, but this line of logic can lead to a “do whatever it takes” mentality that I won’t do.

    Barry King, a planter in London England has given some excellent messages on this over the last couple of years giving examples from the 11 churches he’s planted there, including planters who preached for several years to only their families before it got traction and took off. It takes that kind of tenacity to plant in a post-modern culture.

  • Rebecca Sobek says:

    I am not sure what exactly you mean when you say it is about the numbers – the number of souls that are saved, or the number of souls that attend your church? If you do everything that God tells you to do and you only ever have 20 people at your church then does that make you unsuccessful? Does doing “great things” for God mean that everyone needs to be a Billy Grahm, Ralph Moore, or Zac Nazarian? Isn’t doing “great things” for God simply being faithful in what He has called you to do?



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