It’s Not About the Numbers

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Counting

Don’t get me wrong; I like numbers. Numbers can be very useful. Statistical information is invaluable for planning and strategizing. But there is little place for them in our ministries.

Unfortunately, we tend to place a rather large emphasis on numbers. We count church memberships. We count attendance. We count offerings. We count conversions. We count baptisms.

Before I forget, let me remind myself that I’m just as guilty. I count clicks on links I post to Twitter. I count followers. I count likes and shares on Facebook. I count page views on my blog posts. I count email subscribers.

But all these can be good, right? I mean, don’t the numbers let us see how God is working through our ministries? Can’t we use those numbers to see what works and create new strategies?

A Large Army

King David seemed to think the same thing. Or at least he came to that conclusion toward the end of his reign. For a long time, David had simply trusted God to bring the victory. Time after time, the odds had been against him, yet Yahweh provided deliverance.

But eventually, David’s army became large. No doubt he gave God the glory for his large army, but it still became a snare for him. He started to place more trust in the number of his troops than in Yahweh of hosts. David gave in to his flesh and allowed pride to take over.

Thus he had his army counted. You can read the account in 2 Samuel 24 or paralleled in 1 Chronicles 21. Suffice it to say that God’s response toward David was not favorable.

Certainly, David could have used those numbers. They would have been a tremendous asset, allowing him to be much more effective in his planning. But God did not want David to win his battles through planning, strategizing, or numbers. God wanted David to trust him. He wants the same from us.

Trusting God

God wants us to rely on him fully and completely, without having our own resources to fall back on if he doesn’t come through. He will come through. Always.

All God asks of us is to follow his commands as he gives them. If we are being led by the Spirit, he will show us our path. And when God directs us to do something, he provides the means to complete it. We must simply trust him. When we try to count the numbers and plan our own course, we end up being led by the flesh.

Success

We are not to count success according to numbers any more than we are to plan by them. I say this not as a rebuke but as an encouragement. It is so easy to think we have failed when we don’t see any results, but that is not how God views success.

Do what God calls you to do. Do it faithfully. It doesn’t matter how many people you actually see changed as a result. God counts faithful obedience as success, no matter the outcome.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6–7, ESV)

God calls some to plant seeds and others to water. You could be a faithful witness for years and never see a person come to Christ, but those seeds have still been planted. Only God knows when he will cause them to grow, or how many other people he will use to water them along the way.

Conclusion

Don’t worry about the numbers. Just trust God and obey what he commands. Walk in the Spirit and allow him to show you your path. Follow. Plant or water as God leads. He will bring the growth.

What Do You Think?

Do we place too much emphasis on numbers? Have you been guilty of this? Is it ever legitimate to strategize in the name of “good stewardship”? If so, where do we draw the line?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.