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 fewer 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?
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’ve sent as missionaries or church planters. I think it would be exciting for this reason to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”
We typically celebrate growing attendance in church and grieve if the numbers are less than last year. But what if the numbers are less because we’ve sent more? The sending of missionaries, church planters and mission teams is reason to celebrate. Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation to realize less may mean more if the church is sending people out on mission. Our sending may mean a smaller number is gathering, but how exciting it would be! Let’s celebrate fewer people in our small groups and worship if it’s the result of more Christ followers going out 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, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.