I grew up in the town of Muskogee, Oklahoma. In the traditional SBC church my father pastored at there was a board hanging at the main entrance that would show how many people were in Sunday morning attendance, discipleship training, and how much offering was received. I always remember being excited when our little church would exceed 100 in attendance or when a big offering would be given. And honestly, I’m still excited about those numbers today.
The attendance board has received a bad rap over the years. Pastors (like myself) have criticized traditional churches that still post such information. The complaint has been boasting or focusing upon the wrong things. But doesn’t attendance matter? And isn’t it a good thing to celebrate the generosity of God’s people in giving? At the church I currently pastor now (www.peineridgechurch.org) we still record weekly attendance and offering. It isn’t hung on a board outside the church entrance. We keep it in a google doc that is accessible to our pastors and staff. On Sunday afternoons I always look forward to celebrating (though it may be more privately) how many people God brought to hear the Gospel preached at our church!
Counting attendance isn’t wrong… in fact, I would say its biblical and necessary. In the second chapter in Acts we’re told how many were attending the early church in Jerusaelem (120) and how many believed and were baptized at their first public worship gathering (3,000) and how the church exploded numerically thereafter (“…the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”) Numbers matter!
However, some numbers are more important than others. Many of us measure the health of our church by whether it is growing in attendance, baptisms and offerings instead of how we are multiplying our efforts for Kingdom expansion. Do you disagree? Let me ask you to just fill in the blanks: How much was your church offering last Sunday morning? _______ How many people in your church are in a formal discipling relationship? ______ The first question relates to growth, while the second question relates to multiplication. If you are measuring your church health by growth alone, you are using the wrong measurement. The better measurement is whether your people are learning to reproduce themselves. As Ralph Moore has often said, “It’s time to stop counting converts and begin counting congregations”. Christ command was to make disciples, who in turn would make disciples. It wasn’t that Jesus was disinterested in numbers. His strategy would actually reach higher numbers in the long run, because multiplication expands exponentially faster than addition.
So what should we be counting if we truly want to see a Gospel movement take over our city, region, and world? Start caring more about the numbers that relate to multiplication in comparison to the numbers relating to addition. What are those numbers?
1) How many people are in a discipling relationship in your church?
2) How many people are being mentored for future leadership?
3) How many potential church planters are going through your internship program?
4) How many churches do you hope to plant this year? Next year? By the year 2020?
5) How many churches will those churches plant in the same number of years?
I’ve never been a math guy, but I’m beginning to learn that multiplication is really where the movement is at. I hope you’ll join me in counting the most important numbers.
Associate Director – plantMIDWEST