More Important Than Numbers

Church Attendance Board

Some churches are so focused on numbers that they will do almost anything to boost their numbers – attendance, membership, conversions, etc. Any Christian with a love for the Lord and for others would certainly prefer to see an increase in these numbers, but not at all costs. We need to recognize that there are certain things that are more important than numbers. In this article, we will notice seven of these that are presented to us in the New Testament.

Favor of God

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

It stands to reason that the more we please men, the larger the crowd that will attend, follow, or join our group. Yet it is better to seek the favor of God so that we can be a faithful servant of Christ. He is the one to whom we are accountable (Hebrews 4:13) and He is the one who will determine our eternal fate (Matthew 25:32, 34, 41).

Sound Preaching

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5).

There is a certain type of preaching that people want – preaching that is according to their desires. We could increase our numbers by finding out what kind of message the majority wants to hear. Yet it is better to demand sound preaching. The gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Changing it makes it “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9), thus taking away the power in the message to save.

Warning against Sin and Error

‘You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”’

After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.’

Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’ But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit’” (Matthew 15:7-14).

Generally, if people are offended, they will leave. They would rather be affirmed in their errors and sinful practices than be made uncomfortable by attention that is given to their need to repent. Yet it is better to warn them anyway. People cannot repent if they do not know they need to repent (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Ezekiel 3:17-18). Many still will not repent, but some will.

Congregational Purity

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:1-7).

People sin because they want to sin. Therefore, it can be popular to allow them to continue in their sin without guilt. Yet it is better to strive to keep the church pure by having the one who refuses to repent “removed from your midst” (1 Corinthians 5:2). The influence of sin can spread like “a little leaven [that] leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Corinthians 5:6). As the church in Thyatira was warned, not keeping the congregation pure can cause Jesus to reject the church (Revelation 2:20-23).

Congregational Unity

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

A “heretic” (KJV) is one who causes factions in the church. He is more than just a troublemaker; he has a following (cf. 3 John 9-10) which leads brethren to think that they should simply let him have his way for fear that he could leave and take his following with him. Yet it is better to have the church united – not under the heretic’s opinion, but in the “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). When there are factions, it shows who is “approved” and who is “not really of us” (1 Corinthians 11:19; 1 John 2:19).

Committed Disciples

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe…

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life’” (John 6:60-68).

Right before all but Jesus’ twelve disciples left Him, He had five thousand men ready to fight for Him to make Him king (John 6:10, 15). However, despite their zeal, they were not interested in spiritual things (John 6:26). It is better to have a group made up of those who are committed to discipleship. This is what Jesus wants – disciples (Matthew 28:19) who are willing to “take up [their] cross daily and follow [Him]” (Luke 9:23).

Following the Narrow Way

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

There will be much more company along the broad way and only a few on the narrow way. Yet it is far better to follow the narrow way because it “leads to life” – not physical life, but “eternal life” (Romans 6:22-23). The destination is a place where God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). No matter how difficult the narrow way might be, it will be more than worth it in the end.

Conclusion

We do not want to go so far as to say that numbers are unimportant, but there are certain things that are more important. It is better to stand with God in the minority than to stand against God in the majority.


Read the follow-up article: The Importance of Numbers


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