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  • Writer's pictureEli Schnell

Is Your Church Successful?

When I am asked where I preach, the number of bodies in the seats is sometimes the greatest concern expressed. All my life I have heard the unhealthy rating of churches by number: number in attendance, number of elders, deacons, and ministers, number in the collection plate, and, more recently, number of “campuses” you have accumulated. It can become a form of census taking, like King David’s in 1 Chronicles 21, which God condemned. David had ulterior motives in taking the census, and from his mistake we learn this truth: raw numbers are not an accurate rating of success or failure for God’s people. Instead of finding false comfort in numbers, determine success by whether your congregation is accomplishing the work God has given you to do, namely, the spreading of the gospel (Mark 16:15) and the upholding of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Consider this statement from Phil Sanders in his book “Adrift”:


“The Devil has for centuries promised people the world – only to steal their souls. He is cunning, deceitful and masterful at his art of seducing God’s people away from the truth.”

“With glitz and glamour, speaking to our selfish inner selves, Satan seductively sells his ‘successful’ improvements on God’s will. Worldly people listen. Some have tried the devil’s way and found that by it they can attract a crowd. Fooled by what appears successful, Christians fool themselves, thinking there is a better way than God’s and fall headlong into the old error.”


Sanders is speaking of the many alterations to the teachings and practices of the church which congregations are making to accumulate a crowd in their buildings. Any concern over the violation of God’s will is dismissed, citing the greater good of bringing people to “church”. The greatest concern is to produce a false sense of success within the church: numbers. Numbers in the seats. Numbers in the collection. Numbers in leadership positions. If we have enough numbers, then no one can deny our success.

Do not buy that trash. A congregation of the church is successful if they are following God’s will, whether they are large or small. A congregation is successful if each Christian is speaking to the souls near them to share the gospel. A congregation is successful if they are creating opportunities for souls to hear the gospel and be saved by God. Rather than taking heart in numbers that have no bearing on your soul, ask yourself each day, “What will I do today to help spread the gospel and uphold the truth?” If you find great difficulty in answering that question, it may be time to return to God’s definition of success and faithfulness. We will all be judged individually on the last day (1 Corinthians 4:5). I must live each day faithfully to God if I am to face Him with hope, and I can only be faithful if I am doing what I can to spread the gospel and uphold the truth. Spread the gospel, uphold the truth, and face God with hope on the last day.


For further consideration:

Butt, Kyle. “David's Census and the Plague.” Accessed May 25, 2020. Link.

Lyons, Eric. “Who Incited David to Number Israel?” Accessed May 25, 2020. Link.

Sanders, Philip Dea. Adrift: Postmodernism in the Church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 2000.

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