Celebrate Subtractions!

It’s interesting to note how often we use numbers to determine the success or effectiveness of our churches.  We talk about how many attend on Sunday, the number of small groups, how many were baptized or the annual budget.  If attendance is less this year than last, things must not be going well.  However, that’s not necessarily true if the number attending is less because they’re sending out missionaries, ministry leaders and church planters.  But how often do we describe a church by the number they’ve sent out?

Abacus & Calculator

Throughout the Word of God, it’s very clear that God’s people are to go because we are sent by Him (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).  So why not describe the success of our church by how many went on mission trips, the number of members engaged in local ministry, or how many we have sent as missionaries or church planters?   I think it would be exciting to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”

We typically celebrate additions and grieve or become bitter about subtractions.  But the sending of a church planter or mission team is reason to celebrate.  Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation that would include celebrating subtractions related to the church’s sending.  Our sending will mean a smaller number is gathering, but what a subtraction celebration it could be!  Let’s celebrate subtraction from our small groups if it’s because more Christ followers are going with the message of Christ.

The focus of the church must change from how many gathered to how many were sent.  It will be hard to talk over lunch or in meetings without asking how many attended small groups or gathered for worship this week.  But by changing the conversation and celebrating subtractions, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.

5 thoughts on Celebrate Subtractions!

  1. You are right, Eric. We forget to celebrate those we send out for the glory of God. Then again, how many of our churches are actually sending folks out? Maybe that is more the problem. Maybe it is that we don’t send out enough to remind us that God longs for us to reach the world. Maybe if we sent more, we could celebrate.

  2. Amen and Amen! Well said – but you’re preaching to the choir. I believe you are correct and we must work to turn the tide so we have something to celebrate.

  3. Great Word! Our desire should be to send out those we reach as they grow in faith and answer God’s calling.

  4. Great word Eric and as usual an interesting way of looking at things. This point was made one time in a Sunday school class I was in. We kept getting smaller and smaller because many of our members went on to teach other classes. What a great way to celebrate though!!

  5. Good clear thinking. It really is about those sent out. Counting those at the feeding trough will only take the Gospel so far. This concept is also about those on milk or meat. By all means let us add some categories to the annual report that really reflect biblical maturity. Gordon Hayworth

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