Recently as I was preparing to give a brief report on things happening in the church I learned that 455 churches reported no new followers of Christ during 2008. I could hardly believe my eyes. Could it really be that nearly half our churches did not see even one person begin to follow Jesus throughout the whole of last year? Surely not!
I know that some pastors and probably some non-pastors do not like the question we ask on the annual report form. It asks about the number of converts, and some object that we are not into a numbers game, and it somehow seems wrong to be fixated on numbers. And, for that reason, some refuse to answer the question. Some of the 455 are in this category. They likely did welcome some to the ranks of followers among them, but do not like our method of reporting.
Others are convinced that we do not ask the right questions, at least not all of them. We ask about the number of people who said a prayer, but seem uninterested in many other people who may not have said the prayer–yet–but made highly significant progress toward their design as bearers of Christ's image in God's world. What about them? In frustration of this type, some do not bother answering the question about converts.
There may also be some, probably only a few, who have seen multitudes of people converted. Yet, because they are humble and do not wish to draw attention to themselves or their church, and out of profound conviction that it is all God's doing when even one comes to faith, they therefore refuse to answer the question.
So, there are reasons to believe that the number–455–is not totally accurate. Perhaps it's only 300!
Only 300! Let's suppose that's correct; it's only 300. Brothers and sisters that is way too many, don't you think? Can you really believe that nearly a third of our churches did not see anyone new come to faith in a whole year? Can it be that not even the pastor of those churches won anyone? Can it be not one Sunday School teacher in any of those churches guided a tender child to give her heart to Jesus? Can this really be? Or am I just having a nightmare?
Of course, I do not know how to make sense of this startling number. But I do know that no church claiming to be a community of Christ-followers should rest content while no one is coming to faith and who knows how many around them are missing the very reason for their creation, some of them ultimately and eternally!
Don't you agree–455, or 300, or even 3 such churches would be way too many? Don't you agree that if people in such a church prayed earnestly for just one new follower that the Lord would surely answer such a prayer? Don't you agree that to do so would represent the very reason God called such a church into being in the first place?
Don't you agree?
Won't you join me in praying, teaching, preaching, sharing until the day comes when the number of such churches is zero?