The Lights Are On

The doors are open.

The lights are on.

The gospel is being preached.

This is the response that I sometimes give when I am at a gathering of ministers and am asked how things are going at the church.

I would love to be able to respond with all kinds of reports of miraculous growth, but, that isn’t the case.  Our church has shown little statistical change over the years.  We have been pretty steady with slight increases and decreases.   Some people come, some people stay,  some people go, the numbers remain about the same.

As a pastor, I sometimes feel as though my success or failure is determined by the numbers.  Certainly that impression is reinforced whenever I attend ministerial functions.  The speakers are always individuals whose ministries have shown dynamic growth.  Growth seems to be held up as the indication of success.  Therefore lack of growth, would seem to indicate failure.  Since my church does not show growth, it would seem that I am a failure as a pastor.

I do not accept that conclusion.

I do not believe that statistics tell the whole story.  I believe that God continues to work in us, and through us, as individuals and as a church.  Only God knows the full story of the impact that is made in the spiritual realm by the large number of small churches, like ours, in our country and around the world.

The doors are open.

The lights are on.

The gospel is being preached.

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8 Responses to “The Lights Are On”

  1. Gloria Says:

    I do think that this is due to the influence of the ‘world’. By the world’s standard things must be growing and prospering to indicate success. However, the thing I remind myself is that one is to be faithful to Christ, to water or plant, and then it is God that brings the increase. It is good to evaluate regularly and seek God as to what direction to take. The greatest sign of success will be “well done thou good and faithful servant!”

  2. LisaB Says:

    It seems to me our impression of the numbers don’t necessarily mean as much to God when you take into consideration how many were killed in the great flood and how many were spared by the sacrifice of His one son. I can pretty much garuntee that the people of those times saw “the numbers” a lot differently than Him.

    I seem to also remember there being something about not judging another man’s servant as well. I could be wrong, but it just seems to me that our job is to just do the best we can as He directs us in faith and to leave the outcome of it up to Him. It might not appear like much to us now, but we might be surprised by the impact when we get to heaven and we see how it all fits together.

    You could think of it this way too. A car has many impressive parts that do many impressive things and sometimes very complex things. In comparison, a small bolt can seem rather insignificant. It doesn’t look like much. It’s not very big and all it does (usually) is just sit there, yet, if you take away that bolt or ignore it when it’s starting to get loose, all those impressive parts aren’t necessarily going to be so impressive or be able to do much of anything until that little bolt gets snugged back up to it’s little place on the battery. It doesn’t need much room. It doesn’t seem to do anything fancy but it’s designed to be what it is where it is for a reason and just because it seems to have the potential to cause some fancy-looking sparks doesn’t mean it should. Just because a church is small and doesn’t appear to put out a lot of numbers doesn’t mean the numbers we can’t see or necessarily notice aren’t there that matter to God and it doesn’t mean it isn’t serving the purpose for which God placed it there and designed it.

    Numbers don’t tell all and as any marketing major could probably tell you, there are a hundred of ways to create and affect the impression of most numbers. It just depends on what spin you want to put on it. For instance. A company may be giving it’s employees three percent raises and try to claim it’s comparable with the raises being given by the competitors. That might sound good and fair until the employee realizes that the starting wage of the competitors are 5 percent higher to begin with and the median wage there is more than the highest paid individuals in their own company despite the earnings and costs of operation being just about the same. When you consider the real “success” of ministries is something that only God can judge, I’d be wondering if it is really wise to put too much stock in our numbers. That’s just how I see it.
    –Lisa

  3. JimmyBean Says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  4. Pastor Curt Says:

    JimmyBean, thanks for your comment.

  5. Cherie Bell Says:

    Tom and I appreciate your ministry beyond words. Your faithfulness and integrity are a standard by which we would all do well to measure ourselves.

    I think about those big, fat churches sometimes. It just seems like humility for those pastors would be such a hard thing to hang onto. I know that w/God all things are possible…but that’s an especial toughy, I think.

    We might want to to be careful when we start judging corporate “spiritual growth” by numbers of bodies in pews. Lots of important things…like the condition of the heart and mind of the individual…could get lost in all that counting.

    • Pastor Curt Says:

      Cherie, thank you for your kind words. I suspect that God has ways to keep the pastors of large churches humble! I agree that a more proper measurement would be the change that takes place in people’s lives, as opposed to simply numbers in attendance. Of course, only God really knows.

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