Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Importance of Size

It is easy to get caught up in the issue of numbers. If a congregation or ministry reports large numbers, that means it is a success. There is a reaction to this which wants to say that large numbers mean those involved have watered down the message. We need to put this in perspective.The Scriptures do mention size a few times (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14). But the emphasis seems to be on the power of God and His message and not on the spirituality or ability of the apostles. This accords with the teaching of Scripture (1 Corinthians 3:6,7; Matthew 16:18;  Psalms 127:1,2). But it does indicate that impressive results are not necessarily bad. Jonah preached a sermon that resulted in a whole city repenting and then went out and pouted because he wanted them to be destroyed (Jonah 3,4). But Jeremiah, who wept over the fate of Jerusalem, saw very little in the way of results (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17). Spirituality and numbers do not always go together.

I believe the best approach to the subject of size is not to make it an issue by itself. We need to avoid standing in overall judgment of others (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:3; James 4:11,12), particularly based on numbers. It is possible to gain large numbers by watering down the message and telling people what they want to hear (1 Corinthians 1:16-25; 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:3,4). But it is wrong to assume this just because someone is successful in attracting large numbers. There may be cases where people are leaving a congregation or organization in droves and those in leadership need to get on their knees and ask if they are doing something wrong. They may not be; there can be various reasons for this, but the question has to be asked. But if a ministry needs to be evaluated (I am convinced this should only be done if there is a reason), then the main issues should be its teaching and behavior not its size. Is it preaching the gospel or pop psychology?  Is it reaching out to people in need or has it become a closed clique that you have work to get into? But size by itself is not the measuring stick. I am convinced when we give account of ourselves to God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12), there will be surprises. There will be those thought great and famous who will be found to be insignificant, and those who are unknown who will be exalted. But there will also be those who turn out to be exactly what they appear to be. Let us not judge before the time.

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