Measuring Success by Numbers

It is a dangerous thing to measure ministry success by numbers or popularity, by healthy budgets or full pews. God’s ways are not ours. I know Godly and gifted men leading healthy and unified churches producing holy and devoted disciples whose churches over two decades of ministry never grew larger than about 140 people. I know of another church that over 100 years of ministry, has never been more than 80 souls, yet they have sent from their congregation over 100 men and women into ministry. Size was not their measure. Faithfulness was. Jeremiah was told that he was to prophesy to the nation and that they WOULD NOT respond. He would spend his entire ministry preaching and see NO fruit (cf. Jeremiah 6:17; 7:27). What was success for Jeremiah?

“God, for his own inscrutable purposes, tests and tries his Jobs and his Josephs, his Jeremiahs, and even Jesus himself. The trials of Job, the beating and selling of Joseph, the imprisonment and mocking of Jeremiah, and the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus all remind us that God moves in mysterious ways. He calls us more fundamentally to a relationship of trust with him than to a full understanding of him and his ways. The parables of Jesus are full of stories of the kingdom of God beginning in surprisingly small ways but growing finally to a glorious prominence. Biblically, we must realize that the size of what our eyes see is rarely a good way to estimate greatness of something in the eyes of God.”

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Fourth Edition
Mark Dever, 33.

Mark Dever’s book, now in its fourth edition has been an effective guide to a better measures of success and more importantly, to faithfulness in ministry. I commend it to pastors and congregants of all denominations. I have read the book before in its earliest editions but this latest edition with its new chapters and reworked message represents Pastor Dever’s mature thinking on a basic Ecclesiology that takes us back to the text and builds out and past the encrustation of tradition. Buy it. Read it. Meditate on it. Pray it. Teach it. But ignore it at the peril of your church’s health.

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