This week we turned in our mid-year statistics that measure numbers of new church plants, total churches, baptisms, outreach groups, people being discipled, etc. Many of us frown on such number counting, even though the Bible is full of numbers like the feeding of the 5000, the 3000 added to the church in Acts 2, or an entire book of the Bible named "Numbers".
Are goals and number counting something unspiritual, displeasing to God? True, it got King David in trouble in 2 Samuel 24, and yet in John 15, Jesus himself says, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." (emphasis mine)
I usually am for numbers when ours are pretty good (as measured with our peers), but tend to be against them when our stats are poor.
The reason so many of us do not like statistics is that they are often revealing of the little fruit that actually occurs from all our efforts. It is painful to see in black and white that we are not accomplishing all that we would hope for the Kingdom in terms of those tracked church planting indicators.
This year our stats are down and we are not happy with what we had to report. As I reflect upon what has taken place this calendar year I have asked myself what we have done so differently that has resulted in the downturn? Much of it can be attributed to some of the reasons listed below in our, "Why do so many of our church plants fail?" However, one of the reasons not listed in this post but is something that we are trying to do differently than in the past is to DO THINGS TOGETHER.
Charles Ringma has some good thoughts about this in his classic devotional, "Dare to Journey With Henry Nouwen." When we work together with our fellow brethren it is never an easy road to travel. I find it is a much slower process requiring greater patience and understanding on my part. For example, I assigned a task six weeks ago to a fellow team member that would normally have taken me a morning to complete. By assigning it to someone else, we have been delayed in moving forward with a project and still waiting for the needed work to be turned in. That is the difference between working together, rather than working alone. Instead of going at my own pace getting much done, we take on the pace of our fellow brethren. When I work alone I can be much more efficient, but it becomes "my work" rather than "our work."
Nouwen puts it this way, "a slow job done together is better than a fast job done alone." Ringma adds, "This kind of service does not have a quick end result in view. It has a process in view." It is so much easier doing things for others, but as Ringma points out, "...service takes on its true character when we do things with others..."
Yes, it has been a frustrating year in regards to seeing the longed for abundant harvest we had hoped to see this year. At best this will end up being a mediocre year (unless the Lord surprises us all!) in terms of seeing visible fruit from our labors.
Yet, somehow I find myself at peace. This peace comes from knowing that we are attempting to not make a name for ourselves, but are truly wanting to work TOGETHER to see His Kingdom come and His Will be done here in Guayaquil as it is in Heaven.