I admit it. I struggle with numbers in the Church. A crammed house on Sunday mornings and I feel great. A less than full worship attendance on a Sunday and I leave feeling like I'm less than God has called me to be. WHY? Because we've been taught and conditioned by THE CHURCH to measure effectiveness almost completely in terms of numbers. Oh we talk a good talk (I include myself in this) about the true measure of effectiveness being about way more than numbers - with things like actual changed lives, people serving, people becoming "missionaries" to the communities we live in, etc.... but the reality is this is far less true than we make it out to be. If we're honest, we'll have to admit it's mostly about numbers. Leave the changed lives and other stuff for other churches.
But I can't help but think about Jesus in the Gospels. Here's a church planter who couldn't rally but about 12 close disciples, and maybe a hundred or so beyond that --- in THREE YEARS! Didn't Jesus read our books? Doesn't He know what an effective church looks like? Doesn't He know it's all about Sunday morning worship attendance?
Wow. I long for the Jesus-experience. Where the focus is God's will for changed lives and the building of relationships that eventually truly change the world.
Some will argue (I've done it) that numbers are important because they demonstrate people "attracted" to the Gospel, etc. I believe that. I think numbers do demonstrate health. But my point is that THIS is all we really focus on.
Really think it's time we re-evaluate what EFFECTIVENESS really means in the Church today.