It’s amazing how as Christians we get on bandwagon’s. In our Christian culture today, that bandwagon is numbers. Any magazine that you read will have an article about numbers, attributing most of the article to the negativity that numbers play in the church today. Question: are numbers really a bad thing? No. Most of us like to have the correct number on our paycheck, bank statement or mortgage payment. However, the worship of anything, except for the One, True, Living God is wrong.

In this debate, most people turn to 1 Chronicles 21 and the story of David taking a census of the people when God told him not to do it. But, why do we neglect all of the places where numbers where recorded as a good or neutral thing. Think about a few:

  • The book of Numbers or any other census God commanded in Scripture.
  • Was Jesus wrong to have counted the 5,000 & 4,000 (plus women and children) when he miraculously fed people? (Did Jesus really have to count or did He just “know”?) Was He solely focused on the number, or did the number mean something about impact?
  • Was Peter wrong to have counted in Acts 1:15 (120 people were present in a meeting) and in 2:41 when 3,000 were saved? Was he solely focused on how great of a speaker he was and the response he could illicit?
  • [Insert your own count passage here]

Of course they were not wrong. Numbers have a purpose but they are not the purpose. They CAN BE an expression of good or bad things in the ministry and they can be focused on with impure motives.

Instead of focusing on some people who may have numbers as their “god”, could we focus on how to increase the impact of the church in the culture to reach more people?

Remember, Jesus and Peter counted (or likely knew the count).



  1. Chris Hill on Thursday 18, 2010

    1Chronicles tells us that David was moved by Satan to go forth with a sensus that displeased God and he and his peeps were to pay dearly for it.

    Now we can’t take one passage like that and relate it to our lives because well….it wasn’t about our lives or the Church. It was a matter between God and David.

    I think the point here is to always listen for the right voice when it comes to counting heads, costs, risks, money, etc… because we can get advice about numbers from everywhere and everyone.

    You’re dead on about the bandwagon thing. Sheesh! I get tired of thumbing through twitter and seeing the same words and topics over and over.

  2. Bob on Thursday 18, 2010

    Good thoughts Josh-I served with a Pastor who taught me this: “Numbers aren’t everything, but they are something.” As I continue to lead and experience different seasons I’m thinking through issues related to life cycles and churches. A church will eventually experience it’s maximum influence and reach, some stay steady where others decline. I believe it’s easy to count growth (however you measure it) when it is up and to the right. It’s a different story when the line on the graph stalls or falls. What leaders do then is telling. Some abandon measuring anything and begin to speak of growing deeper or raising up more committed followers of Christ. Others search frantically for new methods/strategies to keep growth moving in the right direction.

    What I’ve not seen is someone who acknowledges that some churches, thrive, mature and then decline, some eventually die and that this could be from God.

    As we age some of us readily embrace the number of candles on the cake, others stop counting. I wonder if some leaders in the church do the same as their church ages and they no longer like the numbers.

  3. Josh on Thursday 18, 2010

    @Chris – great thought.

    @Bob – Interesting thought on it being okay for churches to “die.” I have to wrestle that one. Great insight. Thanks!

  4. Ron Duncan on Thursday 18, 2010

    Maybe it comes down to who is glorified by the numbers.


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