We try to accurately count every person who attends Journey Christian Church every weekend.
I haven’t always been able to answer that question.
Yes, I know why we count…
We count because we want to know how many people are attending our services.
We count because we want to know “how we’re doing.”
We count because people here want to know how many people are coming to church each weekend.
We count because people elsewhere want to know how many people are coming to church here each weekend.
We count because we want to know how many bulletins to make next Sunday.
We count because we want to make sure we have enough volunteers to serve those who are attending.
We count because we want to make sure we’re opening enough “lanes” to serve those who are attending.
We count because we–accurately or not–view numerical growth as a sign of health. We believe healthy bodies grow.
We try not to obsess on numbers, but…if I’m being honest…it’s hard not to, because it’s how we measure success.
Sounds harsh doesn’t it? It’s hard to write, but I know it’s right.
I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I’ve been asked, “I hear Journey is growing, how many people you running now?” To which I look down, shuffle my feet, and mumble uncomfortably….”We’re over 600 now.” I always feel uncomfortable answering that question because it feels weird to speak a number that I know is overly symbolic to both me and the person who asked the question.
We count everyone who attends Journey each weekend, but we aren’t under any illusion that that number means that we are successful anymore than another number means that we are unsuccessful.
That being said, we’re still going to count and I’ll tell you why. This morning, as I was reading Numbers–the book in the Bible, not our attendance charts :)–I noticed two important facts that I hadn’t noticed before.
1. God Counts People–The book of Numbers is one large attendance chart. It’s important to God that there were 40,500 Ephraimites, 35,400 Benjamites, and that there were 46,500 men in the division of Elizur son of Shedeur. Why? Because people count to God. We count people in our churches for the same reason.
2. God Has Something For Us To Do–God didn’t just count people to impress the people who asked him, “How many people you running now?” God counted people because he had work for them to do. He counted people because Israel needed an army, because someone had to set up the Tabernacle, and He needed people to coordinate and lead worship in the Tabernacle. We don’t count people for the same reason, but we should. Reading Numbers has convicted me to add more purpose to our numbers. There is so much work to be done, but there are so many people just sitting in the pews doing nothing but being counted.
Imagine what would happen in our churches if we church leaders were as meticulous about identifying our people’s spiritual gifts and helping them use their gifts as we are about charting their attendance at one of our services?
I know I’m convicted to make sure that our attendance numbers actually count for something that counts.