Tag Archives: Proverbs 19:21

Church planning & numbers

At church, we have a 2020 Vision. It’s a tool to guide us in prayer and planning. Recently I spent one Sunday sermon talking about a major part of the vision – that by 2020 we see 500 people meeting with us each week.

For the sake of further conversation, I want to write up something about what I said. (Oh yeah, we also had technical difficulties with the recording that day.)

500, is that all?
The main point to remember in every church plan: Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Already. He does not own 2% of Albury-Wodonga people, or 20%. Jesus rules 100% of us. There is one Lord – all will bow to that Lord, willingly or not (Philippians 2:9-11).

The Lordship of God everywhere is the driving impulse for evangelism to everyone. 500 is way too small a number! We love to honour the majesty of God by announcing this majesty to each and every person.

Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
Isaiah 45:22

500, that’s lots!
That’s a scary number. It’s a risky number. Why bother naming a target? As I see it, there are a couple of reasons and a couple of risks.

One reason to have a target is to stretch us and to provide no excuse for complacency. It would be easy to tread water as a church, and be content with existence. We’re relatively established – and can easily be happy with that. Surely God is worth a little more effort! Not to mention love for our perishing neighbours.

A second reason is that a definite number (rather than a general ‘increase in size’) aids planning. We then ask, ‘If we have that number, where will we meet?, how many small groups leaders do we need to start training?, etc.’

The risks? One is that we set ourselves up for disappointment. Another is that we become arrogant at ‘success’. Both of these come from finding our church identity in our church plans. Keep them apart at all times. Our identity is always in Christ. This never changes. To live is Christ. If plans go well, it’s Christ who did the work. If they do not succeed, Christ remains Lord of his church.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21

But no one will care for me
There’s an idea I sometimes hear that churches are all about community, or Christian family, or mutual love. It usually translates, ‘I want good, supportive friendships here.’ That’s nice. But it is in no way Christian.

I’ll say it again: it’s not Christian in any way to love people who make you feel good. It’s not Christian – it’s human. As Jesus said, ‘Even sinners do that.’ By all means go ahead and have fine friendships, but do not derail the purposes of God in the name of your friendships.

God is about loving the ungrateful and evil. God is the Father who gives to people who will never repay. God is about ridiculous grace to people in rebellion against his rule. We know that, because we are those people. That’s precisely what God does for us through Christ. The way to have a Christian church – not merely a human organisation – is to welcome the unlovely. And that’s why we plan for growth.

Jesus said:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:32-36