I had a phone call the other day from someone asking how many people did we have for Easter service at our church... My response was hundreds of millions.
To be honest for our little corner of Christendom, we had a really good turnout. Anytime you get visitors or people coming back, who haven't been in awhile, you really feel it—there is a different level of energy and excitement.
Seriously though, I really don't care about how many people came to our Easter gathering, I just care about people knowing the love that Jesus has for them... No. I am not trying to spiritualize myself or make myself feel good knowing the fact that we didn't have thousands come to our church—I just really care about people. Both for those people that came to our church, and for those people who didn't show up.
The Gut Feeling... You know What I'm Talking About.
It wasn't always this way for me. I would get that little feeling in my gut if the church that I worked at didn't have a covetable number in attendance to share with people from other churches. It's hard not to be a part of the competition game. It's even more difficult to suppress that somewhat awkward feeling of saying,"Well we only had "fill in the blank" people show up."
Trust me, I know it's hard—I've lived on both sides of the "playing field." Most of us hope no one asks us these questions, "How many go to your church? Or, how many were at your Easter service(s)?" Unless our situation meets the bragable (Is this even a word) criteria of being share worthy.
Feeling embarrassed or ashamed that you didn't have masses coming to your Easter gathering is sinful and comes from the father of lies. These feelings degrade and belittle the people who call your church home and those who come to your worship gatherings—especially the visitors.
I also know the fallout if you don't have "x-amount of people" show up at your church. You have payroll to meet, bills to pay, ministry to accomplish, egos to fill, and dreams of reaching the masses with the gospel.
Again, trust me I know this all to well—I live and feel these things too. I have hopes and dreams for the church I pastor.
We all have dreams and hopes...
At some point we need to be faithful with what has been given to us and that which is before us. This doesn't mean we don't work hard, dream, scheme, and strategize ways to grow our church numerically or spiritually. Not to do so does not honor Jesus and His mission.
The sizes of our church don't define us—its our faithfulness in loving Jesus and to loving our neighbor to the best of our ability.
I'm guessing between a thousand to two thousand people went to Easter services last Sunday in the various churches that meet regularly in our city. And Hundreds of millions of people gathered together to worship Jesus and proclaim the gospel all over the world last Easter Sunday—we are all on the same team accomplishing the same mission, which was given to us by our Lord Jesus.
I know what I am writing isn't popular and many people who read this will tell me it's just me who feels this way or that it's okay to strive for numbers and a little competition doesn't hurt anybody... Maybe these people are right—maybe it is just me. Maybe I'm being trivial and wrong. I have been known to suffer from low self-esteem at times, and I'm also highly competitive and don't like to lose...
At some point the competition and comparison game needs to stop. We are all on the same team! Let's celebrate with each other what Jesus has accomplished—despite us.
I am so thankful for the church I get to pastor. The people who make up our church family are so welcoming, encouraging (They put up with me), loving, broken, hurt, authentic, and forgiven. I hope everyone gets to experience a church family like mine.
So I'm gonna tell people that we had hundreds of millions show up for Easter last Sunday.
Grace and Peace, Joe