We’re a numbers-oriented society. We measure sports teams by their win/loss record. Grades are assigned based on the percentage of questions that a student answered correctly. Even employees are routinely evaluated by a numbers-based system. Perhaps it’s because math is the universal language. Two plus two will always equal four regardless of whether you are in France, Japan or Antarctica. In a day in age where we parse what the word “is” means, numbers are easy to understand.
It’s tempting to bring this same mentality to church. We measure a church’s effectiveness by how many seats are filled, much like we measure a baseball team’s success by how many tickets they’ve sold. We’ve become a nation that celebrates the mega-church, that delights in warehouses and stadiums filled with parishioners. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m a firm believer that numbers aren’t what determines a church’s adherence to teaching and applying the Word of God. After all, 3,000 new believers were added in a single day after Pentecost. That would qualify as a mega-church by any standards today. However, it can become a problem when all we are looking at is the numbers; when we are more concerned about the quantity of people instead of the quality of their growth.
As Charles Shedd is quoted as stating – “The problem is not that the churches are filled with empty pews, but that the pews are filled with empty people.” If the people in attendance have a vapid faith, if their understanding of God is diluted by their personal preferences rather than illuminated by truth of God’s Word, than the church is empty regardless of how many seats are filled.
The challenge is to make sure that this is not true of us. We need to be people who have a deep and growing understanding of Who God is, and what it means to follow Him. We need to be filled with His love, and His wisdom, committed to doing the work that He has set before us to do. We need to go to church thinking not what we can get, but how we can use what we’ve been given by Him to further His kingdom.
We need to make sure that when we fill a seat, we are coming as people who are filled by Him.