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Size Matters:
Tim Challies, we won’t hold Canada against him.
Make his blog a regular read.

     I really enjoyed reading Tim Challies’ post today (actually, yesterday, 02.09.2012, but I’m post-dating this post so I can get ahead of schedule on our blog) about the silly questions pastors ask each other at conferences. They’re not at all unlike the questions we “church folk” ask each othser when we get together. Let me start by asking you the question he centers in on in his post:

“How many people go to your church?”

    Now, before you get all huffy I want you to know I, too, ask it and I, too, understand the good motive that is (sometimes) behind it. It goes something like this: “if they know a lot of people go to our church, surely they’ll want to come and see what all the buzz is about and surely that will help attendance go up and surely if God has greater numbers to work with He can do greater things for His
kingdom.” Simply stated – if it’s a “who’s got a bigger church” game, and our church comes out as the bigger, it’s better for God’s kingdom, because God really needs our church’s help in building His kingdom. WHAT?!

     Have you ever found yourself walking down that road of “Kingdom-minded reasoning”? I have. I ain’t too proud to admit it. But, Challies helps us put a finer point on where we need to be going in these conversations. First, cut it out. Second, (and I’m not only paraphrasing, but adding my own spin to it) the farther away we get from including an actual number in our answer, the closer we are to letting God speak for Himself through the work He is doing in and through the people in our church. As Mark Driscoll phrases it “it’s less like a biography and more like a testimony”.

     Take a look at Tim’s post at http://www.challies.com/articles/asking-better-questions#more. Consider the ideas he includes in his “asking better questions” section toward the end. Aren’t these far better questions to ask anybody, regardless of where the conversation was going before the “who’s got a bigger church” question came out? In discipleship, we’ve always tried to stick to the basic three questions – “What’s God showing you in His word this week? Where has God been undeniably showing up in your life? and What are you struggling with/how can I pray for you?”

You Got Some Better Questions, Blogboy?
    These are the kinds of questions that can move people forward in their faith. These are the kinds of questions that keep a man (in particular, but women can get stuck here, too) from hiding out in “news-sports-weather”. Here are a few of Challies’ suggestions modified for your next discipleship/small group/date night conversation:

  • How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in our church/in your care?
  • What evidences of the Lord’s grace are you currently experiencing?
  • What are you excited about in your/our church right now?
  • Who are you excited about in your/our church/small group/family right now?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you?
  • Who have you been discipling recently?
Trick Question:

     As I read Revelation 2, the Lord issues several scathing rebukes to the 7 churches of the 1st century. He also gives some praises and promises great rewards to those who overcome. Read it and ask yourself – “are any of these churches praised for their great numbers or rebuked for not having enough people in them?” Okay, you didn’t even have to read the chapter to answer that, right?

     Anyone can fill a building with people who like hip music, drop their jaws at clever use of technology, and want their ears tickled by whatever makes them feel good. (see 2 Tim. 4.3) But, it takes a special “nobody” to stand out of God’s way and point others to the testimony of what God is doing in His church rather than to fall for the old hook in the cheek that pulls us into the limelight of prideful biography. It takes a special “nobody” to ask the penetrating questions in small group and one on one settings to force those like me who are ever susceptible to complacency to “examine themselves”, confront their own sin, repent and receive from Jesus. PRAY that we can be that kind of nobody. Pray that more people are raised up in that anointing.

     Should we really be impressed by mere numbers? If not, why do we so easily gravitate to that line of conversation and how quickly can we get away from it? What can we do, as individual members of the body of Christ and as churches to reach beyond quantity and into quality? What will you do?

AP