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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Keeping the Number at One

We live in a world of more than one. Each news report becomes more important as the number of people directly affected rises. Each success at church is accentuated with the number attending, making decisions, being baptized or giving. The casualties of war are pronounced at certain milestones of losses.

All of these numbers are further emphasized as they are compared to previous numbers. The news will focus on years past when we had whatever numbers and generally seek to report an escalation in problems. The church will point to previous years on how many attended, gave, were baptized, etc. with an effort to show success.

As Christians we find ourselves no different than the non-churched when we look at numbers. We want greater numbers. We focus on making sure those numbers are greater each year. We glorify the mega-church. Even if we merely visit one of these churches we tell of their facilities, their magnificent worship or their ministries. Most of us wish our churches would grow like them. We want to see success too. And success is most often defined by the numbers.

Yet, this is not the way that God sees people. He sees each and every one of us without looking at the numbers. He sees the needs of the one and goes after one of us at a time. His plans for us are specific to us. His method of reaching each one of us is unique.

Isaiah 49:16 says, "6 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; " Doesn't this speak of our God who loves us individually?

Sometimes I don't have anything to write on when someone gives me his phone number. I write it on my hand so that I won't forget it. Jesus wrote my name on His hands when He died on the cross. No, He won't forget me. But not only me. He has written the names of all those whom He died for.

Jesus told a parable about a shepherd who lost one sheep. He left his other ninety-nine sheep to find the one that was lost. When he found it, he threw a party to celebrate with his friends. I can't help but think that I, too, must make sure that no matter how large my church may grow that I can't avoid seeing each person as having the importance of that one sheep.

No matter how many come to church each one must come to Him. I am His instrument of reaching the one. Yes, I would like to see my own church become much larger but somehow I can't let the number that I am concerned about get larger than one. Each person is that valuable to God.

Luke 15:3-7 (ESV)
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.


Anonymous said...

Well put.  Indeed, we should give high priority to what the parable of Luke 15:3-7 was pointing to. Often times, church leadership defers to majority and forsake the attending/ministry to one in need of ministry, or needing to be saved, on the ground that, to do so would be wasting the time of many. For example, a church senior pastor may NOT want to minister to some individual(s) in church services, even when the Holy Spirit is prompting to minister.  Instead of trying to instruct/convince the congregation, the leader flows with the ones without the need, and ignore the one with need.  Now, just imagine if all are your children, and one of them has a bad cut and bleeding badly, do you attend to the one, or do you flow with the other children who are without similar needs?

Church leaders must be prepared to, on some issues, NOT go with the majority; majority is NOT necessarily right. Scripture recorded that many (majority) would go through the big gate, and travel on the big road, leading to Hell (few, through the narrow gate, and on the narrow road, leading to life).

Salvation, ultimately is personal, meaning, each one has to saved, individually; each has to make the choice and choices in life, and God judges each one (although there is a corporate dimension, too, with God; corporate Israel, for example).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

sirnorm1 said...

thank you. good word

Craig Godfrey said...

I can tell that you have a deep love for your people, as it shows your heart is in the right place.

I am guessing that your fear is you think you can’t look after both the ninety-nine and the one at the same time?
In the parable the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in open-country to go after the one. Why does he do that? Because sheep naturally tend to stick together in the presence of danger (the old safety- in-numbers thing). They know that if anything dire happens, their master will be back to help them.

To want to go after the one is not a bad thing. Do it. Chase it to the ends of the earth if you have to. The flock are in God’s hands, so don’t fret about it.

I would say it is better to have a flock of 100 on fire for God and hungry for His word, rather than 1,000, most of whom you don’t even know are saved or not. Forget about the numbers game, that’s just a distraction. Your job is to attend to your flock. Sure, always look for ways to evangelise, but that is adding people to His church, but not particularly your fellowship. Faithfully preach the word, and God will give the increase, not you (see 1 Cor 3:7).