By Roc Collins
Director of Strategic Objectives, TBMB
I recently overheard someone cynically remark, “It seems like everybody is way too focused on numbers in church.” I understood what he was saying, but I would argue that focusing on numbers is a godly pursuit.
Before I deepen the chasm of cynicism even further, please hear me out. Every number represents a person so valuable to God that He’d be willing to send His only Son to die in their place. That’s value! As it’s been said: We count people because people count.
Here are four important reasons why counting makes an eternal difference.
(1) Counting is consistent with the Bible. In almost every book of the Bible there is a number.
- About 3,000 saved and baptized at Pentecost.
- That number spiked to 5,000 a little later!
- We read in God’s Word that Jesus fed over 5,000 (a number) with five loaves (a number) and two fish (another number)
- A shepherd counts his sheep. Note: You can’t find the 1 until you count to 99.
- A widow counts her coins.
- David counts his warriors.
- And in Psalms we learn that the very hairs of our head are numbered.
- Why, there’s even a book in the Bible called Numbers!
Are numbers important to God? Apparently so. And with the number of lost people on a beeline course to hell, counting should not only remind us to reach the lost, it should passionately compel us to reach them.
(2) Counting helps us correct.
In every sport and every postgame press conference, the coach is handed a stat sheet. The stat sheet is filled with numbers. The numbers tell the story of the game- triple doubles, pass completion percentages, shots on goal, number of sacks, free throw percentages. For any coach, this information is gold because it allows him to make adjustments and prepare strategies for improvement. Think about it for a second. Every game has a clock. Every season has an end. Our mission is no different, but the stakes are eternally higher.
Our numbers remind us of the mission and we are on the clock. Think about it. There are infinite game plans and strategies, but no team has an infinite amount of time. We don’t either. The Psalmist prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
So what does wisdom look like when applied? Proverbs 11:30 answers the question: “He who wins souls is wise.” Every time we look at a clock, we should be reminded that our time is fleeting, and people need Jesus.
If that’s our focus, we will wisely number our days and have gospel conversations because people count. If our heart’s not broken for that man repairing your car, the girl bagging your groceries, or your neighbor next door could spend eternity separated from God, then we need to correct our perspective and look up at the clock. One day the horn will sound and the final story inside the numbers will be told.
(3) Counting helps us connect.
At the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, your numbers are very important to us, because we want to help you win. When it comes to helping churches, your numbers in the Annual Church Profile we collect every year are gold! Keep in mind, no one is going to call and shame you when you have a rough season of ministry. We all have those seasons, don’t we? Just ask Elijah, Jeremiah and Job. They all counted their losses. Calling you to implore you to shape up is not what we do. We are here to support and serve you any way we can and counting helps us do that. We serve churches. It’s job one.
(4) Counting will help us celebrate.
When your church celebrates baptisms, growth and spiritual breakthroughs, we all want to celebrate with you. I remember days in my ministry when the funds were low and the work was dry.
Then, out of nowhere, we’d see a student get saved, a family join the church, an alcoholic husband do a 180-degree turn and enter a support group or a business man called to the mission field. Sudden outpourings of God in dry seasons inspire everyone. Like the leper Jesus healed, we can’t help but tell somebody!
When a small church in Tennessee baptizes five people after years when the baptistry didn’t get a drop of water, we celebrate it!
When a church plant doubles in attendance and opens a food distribution center to feed 50 families in the community in one month, we get a fire in our souls. We’re inspired! Every single baptism listed on the ACP is a soul saved from eternal separation. That’s why we count.
When you receive the ACP form next year, please remember that this isn’t just a dry, rudimentary document or another nagging task sent to you from bean counters. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate, serve and track the hand of God around our state.
Focusing on numbers is not a vice. It’s a virtue. Why? Because, behind every number there is a person precious to God. That person deserves to be counted.