The Numbers Game

I have always been aware of numbers. Go to any gathering of ministers and the conversation always turns toward how many we have in our programs. Kent Hughes has a great resource I have valued for years, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” While I understand the need for measurement, the question is, “what is the best way to do that?”

“Numbers. They’re the currency of ministry. The crowd has become the definition of ministry success.” — Thom Schultz

As an example on a local level, how many people attended your last Bible study or event? And how did you feel about that number? Probably one of two ways:

  1. Yea! More people showed up; we must be doing it right!
  2. Sigh…Not as many people as we wanted or expected came. What are we doing wrong?

Sound familiar? You invested a lot of time, energy, and emotion to create the opportunity for people to connect and grow in their faith. You prayed. You asked God for wisdom, guidance, and strength. You were excited for the vision he gave you and your ministry team.

Then, only 5 people showed up, or only 50, or only 200 instead of the 250 you had last time. The numbers fell short. You felt disappointed, discouraged, and perhaps even defeated.

That’s how numbers become the currency of ministry: high equals good, low equals bad. Most leaders don’t realize how often they measure success by crowd size instead of life transformation (changed lives).

How would Jesus measure success? “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:8). People are easy to count. Spiritual fruit is not. So after your next event, will you count quantity, or will you invest the time to measure quality? If the number was small, how where the people in the small group impacted?

In order to measure quality, count change, the true currency of ministry. If only one person showed up for your Bible study, would you be willing to laugh, cry, and share as God transforms that person’s life? One solitary life? Isn’t it time we got excited over a few who get it, a couple whose lives are changed, instead of the number of chairs we filled?

Practically: Ask the people impacted by your ministry leadership to share their stories. Make a file or ministry database filled with short testimonies to document how people’s lives were transformed through your ministry. Maybe start a Facebook page or blog to create opportunities for people to share.

Remember, the number in the crowd does not equal the success of your ministry. Even though Jesus had large crowds follow him, the people weren’t amazed because of the numbers. They were amazed at HIM. Measure the fruit of change in your ministry, and you’ll be amazed at Jesus, too!

[print_link] [email_link] [Thanks Linda Crawford and Group’s Women’s Ministry Leader]

Marks of a Disciple

A lot of people talk about being followers of Christ, and about being disciples. But what characterizes a disciple? What does a disciple look like? How can we give ourselves a “spiritual check-up” to ensure that we’re still on the path of discipleship, and not just giving lip service to the concept?

Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators, used to talk about three characteristics of those who are true followers of Christ. He called them the marks of a disciple. Here’s a brief summary of his thoughts that can help you as you seek to live as Jesus’ disciple today.

Identified with Christ: The first mark of a disciple is that he is someone who is identified with the person of Jesus Christ, someone who will openly admit that he belongs to Christ. On one occasion Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). It seems that everything in His ministry led up to this. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and in three days rise again (Mark 8:31). A disciple takes the opportunity to identify himself with Jesus Christ.

Obedient to the Word: A disciple is not only a believer who is identified with the person of Christ, he is also obedient to the Word of Christ, to the Scriptures. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19,20). A disciple does more than attend meetings. He does more than take notes. He finds out what the Bible says and does it. We need to make up our minds that, God helping us with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going to be obedient to the Word of Christ.

Fruitful for Christ: So a disciple is one who is openly identified with the person of Christ. Second, he is obedient to the Word of Christ. And third, he is bearing fruit in the work of Christ. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8). Now it seems to me that there are two kinds of fruit here.

  1. First is the fruit of character, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).
  2. Second, there’s fruit by way of influencing the lives of others for Christ. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16).

Let’s ask ourselves: Am I a true disciple? Am I willing to be openly identified with the person of Jesus Christ? Am I seeking to be obedient to the Word of Christ in my everyday life? Am I bearing fruit in the work of Christ, by way of Christlike character and by influencing the lives of others?

I want to be a disciple. I want to have these marks and characteristics in my life. The only thing I’d like to do beyond that is to help make disciples and to get them to help make others. That’s what Jesus wants done.

I found this information from the Navigators.

To Be Successful or Faithful?

There has been a debate on whether we are called to be successful in our lives and ministries or simply faithful to what God has called us to do. For pastors, we often view success in terms of numbers; we are successful if the numbers increase.

I read a book by a guy named Kent Hughes called, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” Imagine a pastor of a small church in a transitional community who faithfully preaches week after week, cares for the congregation, invests in leaders, witnesses regularly, and serves the community; but the numerical growth is just not there. At the Convention he hears stories from other pastors with churches experiencing tremendous growth. The conclusion is often, “I’m not successful in what I am doing. Maybe I should be in a different vocation. God has not blessed with response to he must not be pleased with me.”

So, we beg the question, “Has God called us to be successful or faithful?” Sometimes we see both; but often we have to resign to the fact that even with the hardest work and best laid plans, God is the only one who can bring about growth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

Check out what God says to Ezekiel:

“He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The LORD God proclaims!” (Ezekiel 3:10-11)

Getting people to respond to your ministry is hard. If we are doing it in our own strength, it is sure to fail (John 15:5), but even when we rely upon God to make it happen, we must faithfully do our part and leave the results up to him. Let’s look at evangelism as an example.

Most Christians know that they should be sharing their faith with others, that it is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But, most Christians feel very uneasy about doing it. Many Christians rarely share their faith with others.

  • Some don’t because they don’t want to look foolish in the eyes of their co-workers.
  • Others hold back because they don’t want to offend someone.
  • Many believers choose not to share their faith because their afraid they won’t do it right.
  • Others fear they’ll mess up the message or be unable to answer unexpected questions, so they don’t talk about it.

If you can relate to these statements or if you’re someone who keeps the lid on our faith because you’re afraid of what might happen if you talked about it, then you’ll be encouraged and challenged by Ezekiel 3:10-11. In this passage, the Lord told Ezekiel to take his word to heart and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where Ezekiel was himself an exile. God told him to speak, “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:11). In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with success, whether in life or in serving the Lord, but our chief calling as God’s people is to be faithful to him, to serve him with excellence, to obey him wholeheartedly. If God chooses to bless our efforts with success, that’s great, but many times we cannot guarantee success. We should always choose to be faithful and do what God tells us as well as we can.

How do you feel about sharing your faith with others? What about seeing the fruit of your labor (like success)? What do you find uncomfortable about this? What about setting goals and action plans to reach them? What encourages you to continue serving the Lord even when it does not appear to be successful? What would it mean for you to be faithful as a servant or witness for Christ?

[print_link] [email_link]

Human Recall Notice

This is an e-mail floating around; I’ve seen it before, but thought it was appropriate to send out as we approach the new year (after all, the Mayan Calendar’s end is just 12 months away). Let’s set things right before we get to the end! While corny in a way, there is a lot of truth in this “recall notice.”


The Maker of all human beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has been identified as “Sub-sequential Internal Non-morality,” more commonly known as S.I.N.

Some of the symptoms include :

  1. Loss of direction
  2. Foul vocal emissions
  3. Amnesia of origin
  4. Lack of peace and joy
  5. Selfish or violent behavior
  6. Depression or confusion
  7. Fearfulness
  8. Idolatry
  9. Rebellion

The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory-authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this defect. The Repair Technician , JESUS, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. There is no additional fee required.

The number to call for repair in all areas is: P-R-A-Y-E-R .

  1. Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure.
  2. Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component.

No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Self control

Please see the operating manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) for further details on the use of these fixes.

WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list, and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded. For free emergency service, call on Jesus .

DANGER: The human being units not responding to this recall action will have to be scrapped in the furnace. The SIN defect will not be permitted to enter Heaven so as to prevent contamination of that facility. Thank you for your attention!

P.S. Please assist where possible by notifying others of this important recall notice, and you may contact the Father any time by Knee mail.

[print_link] [email_link]