THE NUMBERS TRAP
October 10, 2002
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the world and its Wal-Mart ways of quantity over quality have all but taken over the 21st century church. Even seemingly faithful fellowships that still claim the authority of scripture and resist affiliation with church growth institutions like Willow Creek and Saddleback are themselves being compromised into corruption by a covetous mentality that permeates the Body of Christ through the ongoing efforts of various authors, editors, televangelists, preachers, pastors, ministers, elders, deacons, teachers and laypersons who have all been instructed or influenced in some way by the CGM (Church Growth Movement) and its many ecumenical, interfaith, parachurch and church management organizations.
Have you ever wondered why there’s an increasing emphasis on “church leadership” these days and why so many congregations now sponsor and promote “leadership conferences”? Could it be because our egos aren’t as easily persuaded into Christian service with Followship Conferences? After all, Jesus didn’t say: “LEAD FOR ME ye fishers of men”. That’s the gospel of Peter F. Drucker and Bob Buford. No, the Lord told Simon and Andrew: “FOLLOW ME, and I will make you fishers of men”. You see my friends, the Christian life isn’t about leading men but about following Christ. One requires pride, the other, humility. And whether they know it or not, this proud and growing network of “leaders” that the Druckers, Bufords, Wagners, Hybels and Warrens of our world are assembling all around us are the United Nation’s unofficial “change agents” and “facilitators” trained to “transform” those of us who might otherwise resist a coming one-world religion of tolerance, diversity and unity where faith is expressed through feelings and consensus, rather than knowledge and obedience. What do they offer the church today? They offer the power and glory of big numbers – the very things Satan offered Jesus in the wilderness. (Luke 4:5-7)
One need only read or hear a mega-church pastor’s introduction today to recognize just how much the humility of ministry has been exchanged for the worldly pride of prominence. How often are we introduced to Pastor So and So from the Some-Odd THOUSAND–MEMBER Such and Such Church as if size was the measure of one’s spirituality or faithfulness? And yet, in our wicked hearts we instinctively give these men idolatrous praise and applause forgetting that the Lord reveals HIS STRENGTH through OUR WEAKNESS that “no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) Unfortunately, we seem to have it in our super-sized heads these days that bigger is better and that the greater the number of brethren, buildings and budgets we accumulate, the greater the victory in Jesus. If this is the case why then did the Lord tell Gideon:
“The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” – Judges 5: 2
I would go so far as to say that the larger a church becomes the less the Lord can actually accomplish through it, just as the more popular and influential a pastor becomes the less the Lord can use him -- not BECAUSE of the church’s size or the pastor’s popularity, you understand but because of the inherent pride, vanity and self-sufficiency (ego) that almost always seems to accompany such increase. Look at the trouble King David got into numbering Israel before battle in 2nd Samuel chapter 24. There’s no safety in numbers – only pride. And nothing is more dangerous than pride. I don’t care what that church growth consultant tells you – the numbers DO lie.
The reason books like ‘The Purpose Driven Church’ and ‘The Prayer of Jabez’ are such huge sellers is because: “the eyes of man are never satisfied." (Proverbs 27:19) And in our re-invented religion of consumeranity we’ve become blessing chasers rather than blessing bearers. While carnal eyes competitively compare each other’s tallies of baptisms, tithes, programs and ministries, the Lord quietly searches the heart of each and every individual that professes Him for signs of spiritual fruit. If it doesn’t exist within a body of believers what difference does it make how big that body is? Nevertheless, many of us still look covetously at today’s inch-deep and mile-wide mega-churches of mediocrity that grow like cancers on the Body of Christ and say in our pathetic hearts: “There’s where God is!”
Occasionally some pastor will write and chastise me for criticizing Bill Hybels, Rick Warren or one of the other CGM promoters saying in effect that they’ve probably led a lot more people to Christ than I have. Again, they appeal to the flesh. But just WHO IS their Christ? Though officially classified as “saved” by the CGM, it is seldom if ever questioned WHAT these world-loving seekers and creekers are actually being “saved” FROM and for that matter, being “saved” TO. Have they surrendered their hearts and lives to the Living Word of God or to the UN’s church of tolerance, diversity and unity where Jesus is little more than a warm and fuzzy mascot? I am tempted to ask one of these self-appointed scorekeepers when they write such nonsense; What about all the faithful servants the Lord sends out BEFORE the harvest – you know, the ones that daily do the tilling, planting and watering along life’s way? Where do these unknowns fit in on the big CGM scoreboard? And answer me this; Who’s a better prospect for the Kingdom of God – a down and out soul that’s lost and KNOWS IT or some hand-clapping praise puppet who dances through life with a goofy grin on his face thinking he’s saved because of his awesome attitude, great self-esteem, leadership skills and love of christian rock? Does that sound like early church material to you?
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” -- Matthew 7:22-23
© 2002 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for News With Views, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at [email protected].