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Church 2016: it’s all about the numbers

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A typical week finds my email inbox filled with the usual plethora of junk mail,solicitations,the occasional plea for money from a Nigerian princess,and a host of other offers “too good to be true”. email pic

On second thought, it’s just about all junk mail these days.

I have noticed a trend however in the emails I get from various ministries,and that trend involves numbers.Lots and lots of numbers.

Here is a small sampling of what I’m talking about:

“Do you want to see your church attendance grow by 30%“?

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems”

Seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons”.

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”

Ten Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe”

“Avoid These 5 Bad Habits that Kill Church Growth at All Costs”

35 Random Thoughts and Tips on The Reading of Books”

Seven Church Facility Trends”

Five Reasons Why the Large Single Site Church Is Declining”

Umm…I think you get the picture.

Numbers. Apparently that’s what it’s all about.

Lest you think these samples are fictitious let me assure you that they are all from nationally known ministries and various denominations.I’m really not sure why I even get some of these because I sure didn’t subscribe to all of them.Wait…that’s why it’s called spam,right?

I’m not sure what’s behind the church’s fascination with numbers,but I can tell you that it resembles the world’s obsession with growth strategies and expansion planning with an uncanny resemblance.

Coincidence maybe?

I think not. From where I sit on the front row I hear an incessant clamoring for more,more,more.

More people in the pew.

More money in the offering plate.collection-plate-370x280

More and bigger facilities.

More of everything.

Except Jesus and His love.I can’t remember the last time I heard the call go out for more of Jesus.

What’s driving this insatiable appetite for more and bigger everything in the church?

I am of the belief that our carnal,or sin nature is the driving force behind all of this.Our nature is to want more of the things of this life more than the things of God.

It’s a heart issue.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.    Luke 12:34 NKJV

The church’s treasure is no longer Christ and His glory.It is in showing to the world that it is on equal footing with it’s wealth,opulence, and abundance.

In doing so the church has aligned itself with another church we read about in Revelation chapter three,the church of Laodicea.

Long gone are the humble shepherds who care for the flock God entrusted to them.In their place are PhD’s from the business community who know how to obtain financing and create mammoth structures that reach toward the heavens,yet know precious little about matters of the heart.

I cannot help but wonder how our Lord must grieve over this present generation.He who has given unto the church the words of liberty and life surely must wonder why that is not enough.

Why is the church not satisfied?

Why must the church always have more of everything but God?

I firmly believe in organization and structure in the church.But do we really need someone to tell us how to increase attendance by 30%?

Why isn’t 2% or 4% or even 5% sufficient,especially if the growth is real growth and not yet another bunch of church hoppers looking to have their ears tickled?

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”? Really?  How about this for a “strategic growth plan”…

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2Ch 7:14 NKJV

Sounds to me like there needs to be a return to the old paths and cry aloud to a Holy God who said He would hear from heaven.

That is of course,if you’re all about the numbers….

Ron

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Weathering The Storms

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According to the calendar it is Springtime.I said “according to the calendar” because around here you wouldn’t know it was spring by looking at the thermometer.Or my rain gauge,which had an inch of ice in it this morning!

Just a week ago we had 55 mph winds and lot’s of rain.This morning I awoke to the yard covered in snow.I would have taken a picture of that but the wind chill was a balmy 19 degrees,so I decided you would have to use your own imagination for that one.

So,yes it is supposed to be Springtime,but the weather doesn’t want to cooperate.In fact,as I look out my patio door right now it’s snowing again!

From watching the evening news I understand that millions of you are dealing with weather extremes all across the country,so I guess that means it’s just one of those years.

We’re all weathering the storms this spring.

Even the animals, for example.Right behind my back yard is a small pond that has an island in the middle of it.Like clockwork,every year about this time several Canadian geese fly in to do battle for this small pond in order to use it as their nesting sight.This year was no different as we watched several pairs of geese battle it out for this prime piece of real estate.Eventually,one couple reigned supreme and claimed the rights to the pond and the island,driving all other competitors away.

Within days the female was sitting on the island,just like every other year for the past 10 years or so that we’ve witnessed this annual ritual.She’s hard to see in this photo,but if you look closely to the left of the center of the island you can just make out her black head through the brush.

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This goose has weathered the strong winds,pounding rains,ice and snow,and the rising water that threatens the nest,and who knows what type of predators,all without ever leaving her nest.

She does this because nature has taught her that before she gets to experience the new life that will soon start pecking it’s way out of the shell,there are things to endure.

Freezing nights

Hunger

Loneliness

Storms that must be weathered

We’ve all heard the term “silly as a goose”or “they don’t have the sense that God gave a goose”,whatever that means.Yet I’m convinced that there is much we Christians can learn from these “silly geese”.

Things like Endurance

The female goose will not leave her unborn for any reason,and once the goslings are born she becomes even more protective.She stays right there through the fiercest of storms because she somehow knows that if she were to abandon the nest her unborn have zero chance of survival.So she patiently endures whatever nature throws at her,because a happy day is just around the corner.Branta_canadensis_-Calgary,_Alberta,_Canada-8

Maybe we should remember this: For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.   Psa 30:5 NKJV

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Heb 12:2 NKJV   (emphasis mine)

All of us either have,or will have things which must be endured.Not because we don’t love God,or because we’ve done something wrong,or heaven forbid not because of what some false teacher may say, that it’s your own lack of faith that has caused your misfortune.If we endure with patience, victory WILL come.

Things like Commitment

The nesting goose is in it for the long haul.Over these past years of observing their actions I have learned that the time varies from when they start nesting till the goslings appear.No doubt there are a great many struggles,with weather being just one of those.Still,it doesn’t matter because none of those things will move the goose off her nest.

Reminds me of something Paul said here: But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.   Act 20:24 NLT

The King James version of that particular verse says it this way: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

That should be our battle cry,that nothing will move me from my appointed destiny in Christ.

Things like Patience

There is something in nature that tells the goose that it’s going to take a lot of patience to bring forth her young. I watch the nesting goose on the pond and I see how she reacts to things that invade her space.Like the muskrat that swims around her island,and even occasionally takes a few steps up on the island.

Or the ducks that fly in to spend time on the pond.The nesting goose just takes it all in stride,annoying as it might be.Funny thing about these ducks.The male goose guarding the pond has no problem with them,but just let another goose act like it’s going to land and the baby ducklingfight is on!

If we’re to weather the storms that come our way,we need a great deal of patience too,as the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,   Heb 12:1 KJV

Life has a way of testing our patience doesn’t it? At least,that’s been my experience so far!And this life really is a race isn’t it?

A race that has to be ran

A race that has to be endured

A race that has to be taken one day at a time

Just like the geese on the pond out back,we’re in this race for the long haul.

Weathering the storms is never easy,in fact the process can be painful at times because life’s storms come in all varieties;physical,mental,financial,illness,even death.But please remember this one thing the next time you find yourself battling the forces that are coming against you:

After the storm has passed,the sunshine is brighter than ever before.

Ron