I recall the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Seminary, sharing an experience he had while visiting the church of one of his former students.

After the service the pastor caught up with Howard and said something along the lines of “Can you believe it, we had 800 today!…800!” To which Howard responded, “800 what?”

Howard was not trying to rain on the pastor’s parade, but rather to put the focus on what kind of people, not just how many people.

I have a friend in Texas who used to say (and still does, after 50 years) that most churches are only interested in “Nickels and Noses,” money and bodies. But, as any serious student of the Bible knows, the emphasis of the New Testament is on the quality in the lives of those under our care, not the number of those under our care.

The goal is not to gather an audience but to equip an army to go to battle for the great commandment and great commission.

So the question is two-fold:

1.  Are you placing too much emphasis on the number of people as you cast vision and lead, because you always talk about more people, or are you giving adequate time and attention to intentionally discipling the people you have?

2.  What is your goal and strategy to genuinely help people become reproducing disciples and not just pew warmers? Are you making the mistake of assuming that if Sunday is fantastic, everything else will fall into place? After 54 years in full-time vocational ministry, let me assure you it won’t.  As good as Sunday is, it is not enough!

I must frankly say that, in my humble opinion, there is way too much emphasis and talk about  size and numbers; how big is your budget, how big is your staff, how big is your facility, how big is your attendance. I fear that in many of our churches in the U.S. we are putting on doing our best to have fantastic experiences on Sunday morning, in order to compete with the bigger churches in town. The truth is that in a good church, more happens between Sundays than on Sundays.  As a pastor or leader at your church, what will you do to help people:

  • Understand the clear and life-changing message of the gospel
  • Create an intimate relationship with Jesus through the consistent practice of spiritual disciplines
  • Experience genuine community in the context of a small group
  • Find a place of service to use their God-given gifts
  • Be on mission with the Gospel in their world in which they live, work and play
  • Give gladly and generously to the work of the gospel in the church they call home

Yes, the key question is not how many, but what kind?