As long as I’ve been aware, the gold standard for measuring how a church is doing is “How many were in church last Sunday?” Every Monday the mental health of many pastors hangs in the balance depending on the answer to that question. If the numbers were up, the pastor is too. If the numbers were down, well, as the numbers go, so goes the pastor.
I know from personal experience that this is true. As a church planter, I had a front row seat on the emotional roller coaster powered by that all important metric – “How many showed up to hear me preach?” I remember my lowest low, when we only had six people show up after trying our best for six months to build a congregation. I also remember my highest high, when our young church exceeded the 200 barrier for the first time.
Wow! I’ll never forget the feeling of satisfaction and even pride when we broke that barrier. I was sure God was just as pleased with me as I was with myself. But God interrupted my self-absorbed celebration with a sobering series of questions that changed the way I measured progress forever.
“How many showed up at church this week?” I heard His still small voice whisper.
“206,” I replied out loud, enjoying the sound of the number as it rolled off my tongue.
“How many weren’t in church this week?” He asked with a broken hearted sigh.
And I realized, I’d been asking the wrong question all along.
How about you?