A recurring theme in all “Preacher Jokes” is the idea that they exaggerate the numbers that attend services. I know one minister of a 250 member church who routinely answers the common question, “How big is your congregation?”, with the answer, “Somewhere under 3,000 members…”
Some may dismiss this interest in numbers as irrelevant when it comes to spiritual matters but a quick look at the record of the church’s establishment and development in the book of Acts proves otherwise.
Luke records that 3,000 souls were added to the church in Acts 2:41, and another 5,000 men were converted after Peter preached his second sermon in Acts 4:4. These are specific numbers recorded by the power of the Holy Spirit… numbers arrived at by counting and noting the results in the sacred text.
I mention this to underscore the idea that numbers matter. They are not the only things that matter but they are important for several reasons:
1. Numbers measure spiritual maturity.
If only half of the church members attend Bible class on Sunday and a third show up for mid-week service, those numbers indicate that there is a lack of commitment to spiritual life in a significant number of people in the church. People can give all sorts of reasons why this is so but the numbers don’t lie.
2. Numbers Glorify God
2,000 years later and we are still amazed at the number of people added to the church on Pentecost Sunday. That same spirit of praise and thanksgiving exists today when our “numbers” for attendance, giving, and conversions are high. I’ve never seen a half-empty church excited about its attendance.
3. Numbers Give Direction
Full classrooms, maxed-out parking tell the elders that they need to plan for growth. Declining attendance requires special teaching or a review of ministry. In every case numbers serve as an encouragement, affirmation, or warning about
the direction in which the congregation is heading.
The numbers here in Choctaw are in the good news/bad news category. Our Sunday morning worship attendance is growing as is our contribution, however the Sunday evening service numbers are fair and Wednesday night poor.
In the end preachers don’t really affect attendance very much, this responsibility belongs to each member and his/her desire to be counted present at every service.