Feb 21, 2011 Tags: , 1 comments

Why I Keep Track of Numbers

I received a great question from a friend who frequents The Awakening from time to time and I wanted to answer it here because I think it is relevant if you're concerned about the balance of Authenticity, organic growth and the cold metrics that churches often measure.  Here's her question:
How do you feel about quantitative goals or metrics in relation to ministry? For example, saying we want to start 56 new churches or we want to see 142 people trust Christ this year or have 75% of the church in small groups. If you think that they are a good thing, what is your scriptural basis for that perspective?

I think it's good to set both goals and keep track of results. It is encouraging to see growth in whatever capacity it comes and I think it's important to know if what I am doing is not "working." If the results I expect to see/God has led me to believe I would see, are not there, then I question if I miss understood God directionally, or it may be that I am not serving in the capacity that I should be (failing).

As far as scriptural support, I am not sure if quantitative metrics are something prescribed in the Bible. For example, there are prescriptions in the bible for the Church and how it should run. (Elders, deacons, serve others, First shall be last, etc.) But then there are descriptions of how those prescriptions are implemented. Like, how does a church gather? (There is evidence of several ranges from Homes, Library's, to 1000's gathered at one time).

Similarly, I don't think you can find a verse that says, "Keep track of your Numbers, and set Goals to reach this many people a year." (This would be Prescriptive) But there are descriptive passages where recording for the sake of reporting is seen.

For instance, in Acts 21:17-26 Luke shares the account of Paul, returning to Jerusalem and then reporting his work to James and all the elders. Paul shares "one by one" all the things that God had been doing among the Gentiles. The result of this reporting is in verse 20, "they glorified God." Then they report to Paul what has happened there in their ministry (most likely in Jerusalem). They report saying, "You see Brother, How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed." The point here is that records were being kept for the purpose of reporting which can lead to the glorification of God.

Where ever a number is written in the Bible concerning the work of Christ or his disciples, it is both a record that was kept, and once written for the masses (as Luke did in writing Acts 21:17-26), it is then being reported This inspired reporting is for our benefit so that we can be encouraged as followers of Christ and Glorify God for what he has done.

For other instances where records are kept and reported, see Matt.14:13-21; Acts 2:41,47; Acts 5:14; and Acts 11:24.

Imagine this gift of inspired Scripture that God has blessed us with devoid of any of the numerical or even descriptive records (like using the word multitude). What if instead of 12 Disciples, there were only "some Disciples" Or if instead of feeding the 5000, Jesus feed a bunch people? Or if we were never given that inspiring number of "3000 believers were added to their number" in Acts 2.

I think God doesn't necessarily prescribe or demand that we keep records like, souls saved, baptisms and percentage in small groups, but I think through his Word, we can see descriptions of this type of recording taking place. And when it is done well (because I've seen it done poorly too) God will be Glorified and his followers will be encouraged to continue to serve Him.

I know I said a lot, but I'd like to hear from you:

  • How would you have answered these questions?  
  • Do you agree or disagree with what I shared?

1 Response to Why I Keep Track of Numbers

2/21/11, 1:04 AM

here's an article by a buddy of mine you might find thought provoking as a response to your post.


Joe White

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