And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? -I Chronicles 21:1-3 (KJV)
Often when two Christians who attend different churches meet the conversation turns to how many people attend their respective congregations. Pastors tend to do this as well, and one could get the idea we think we are in a contest. Several years ago Andrea and I attended a conference in another part of Virginia and the host church, from what I could tell, had probably 1500 to 2000 people on Sunday morning. I was having a conversation with a member of the church who inquired as to the number of people who attend where I am pastor. I answered we will usually have between 80 and 100 on Sunday morning. “Oh,” she replied; “How sweet.” That was the one and only time anyone has ever described our weekly attendance as “sweet.”
Indeed, we can easily become too focused on numbers while neglecting other matters such as proclaiming the gospel, personal growth, love for one another, fellowship, prayer, and ministry within the community – all of which are meant to occur regardless of the size of the church. We do well to remember the words of Jesus who said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Of course we are to be reaching out to people in Jesus’ name so more people will come and the church will grow. However, it’s not all about numerical growth. The Lord promised His presence as long we are faithful and continue to gather in His name. When we faithful and doing what the Lord has called us to do, then numerical growth will come. We can’t all be mega-church, and we are not all are meant to be. Rather, we are meant to serve the Lord wherever He has placed us.
King David of the Old Testament was lured into taking his eyes off the Lord which lead to relying on the number of his people for strength as a nation. God had demonstrated He would take care of His people regardless of their number as long as they were faithful. David later realized he had sinned and acted foolishly (I Chronicles 21:8). Let us not be tempted to believe we are strong based solely upon the number of people we have. Instead, let us find strength in Christ only.
In Jesus is strength, and in Him is the power to effectively minister in His name.