Historically Used In an Exclusive Sense, This Blog Aims to Explore What God's Up To Inside & Outside the Institutional Church

“The Great Goddess Numbers”

When the exalted and glorified Lord of the church speaks to the church of the cities of  Revelation 1-3, in all that is praised and all that is lacking and needs correction, not once to any does the Lord mention congregational size, numbers, or growth in statistics – or as James Means put it “bodies, bucks and bricks”. To what may we credit this glaring oversight?  Might it be that the criteria of the Lord’s judgement of his church and his definition of success for ministry and pastoring is in direct contrast to most employed today – such as faithfulness to the truth, patient endurance in suffering, boldness in witness and generosity of love and service? A great prophetic preacher  of last century said it quite well:

“The emphasis today in Christian circles appears to be on quantity, with a corresponding lack of emphasis on quality. Numbers, size and amount seem to be very nearly all that matters even among evangelicals. The size of the crowd, the number of converts, the  size of the budget, the amount of the weekly collections: if these look good the church is prospering and the pastor is thought to be a success. The church that can show an impressive quantitative growth is frankly envied and imitated by other ambitious churches. This is the age of the Laodiceans. The great goddess Numbers is worshiped with fervent devotion and all things religious are brought before her for examination. Her Old Testament is the financial report and her New Testament is the membership roll. To these she appeals as arbiters of all questions, the test of spiritual growth and the proof of success or failure in every Christian endeavor. A little acquaintance with the Bible should show this up for the heresy it is. To judge anything spiritual by statistics is to judge by another than scriptural judgment. It is to admit the validity of externalism and to deny the value our Lord places upon the soul as over against the body. It is to mistake the old creation for the new and to confuse things eternal with things temporal. Yet it is being done every day by ministers, church boards and denominational leaders. And hardly anyone notices the deep and dangerous error.”

A.W. Tozer “The Set of the Sail”


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