Congregational statistics are due on the General Assembly web site next week. I was working on our report last week and wondering why reporting numbers is an unpleasant task to me. I think the main reason is that statistics can be so misleading. For instance some of the people that are part of our worship and service life and that our congregation is reaching for God’s kingdom do not (and may never) show up in any membership category. Also, our folks are so generous in volunteering and creative in ministry that we do much more than our budget would suggest. There is also a dark side to big numbers. Remember when King David had a census taken of Israel, bringing the judgement of God on David and Israel? Perhaps the sin was hubris or pride in numbers. Or perhaps the sin was a failure to trust in God rather than the strength of the army. But the title of an album by the 77s from a few years back keeps going through my mind: When Numbers Get Serious. And there are some serious numbers that we should pay attention to. Here are some of my candidates: ’40’, the number of years Israel spent learning to trust God in the wilderness and the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil in preparation for his ministry; ’70’, the number of disciples that Jesus sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God, heal the sick and cast out demons; ’12’, the number of tribes of Israel and the number of disciples that Jesus chose to be with him for three years and to be his apprentices; ‘3’, the number of the inner circle of disciples – Peter, John and James, and the number of Persons in God Who have loved each other forever and draw Christians into their mutual dance of submission, obedience, love and joy in one another; ‘2 or 3′, the number of believers that are promised Jesus’ authoritative presence in their midst; ‘2’, the minimum number of disciples necessary to obey all those ‘one another’ commands (323x in the NT) – love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, teach one another, sing to one another, bear each others’ burdens, etc.; and the most important of all, ‘1’, because there is one faith, one baptism, one Lord, one Spirit and one holy catholic church that we share in, and this is the exact number of true and living gods (think about it!). I’m feeling better now because these numbers give me courage! And they don’t mislead or lie. I haven’t even got into the 7 days of creation and the week or the vast multitude of saints around the throne of God. But I have to go now to spend Valentine’s Dinner with my one sweetheart and soul mate.
Blessings, Pastor Zac