You have to be impressed by a system (conservative Evangelicalism, of course) that can turn pretty much whatever you say, even opposite things, and magically transform them all into yet another reason it is right. But it’s a double-edged sword. It is impressive. And safe. But it’s also confusing and ultimately feels manipulative and arrogant, which reflects poorly on the Christ we love. We talked before about how this works with the relationship between faith and science.
But over the years I have found it when we are talking about being faithful as a Church as well.
Big Numbers = Being Faithful/Right/True
For instance, I have often heard the phrase, “Well, look at how God is blessing it (with a lot of people), they must be doing something right.” In some circles, this is said about megachurch pastors like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and even the local large church down the street. And it makes sense. Since God wants the whole world to be saved through Jesus, the criteria for whether a church is “doing it right” is whether or not more and more people are attending. And so we are bigbecause we are faithful.
Small Numbers =Being Faithful/Right/True
But then there are many who dismiss those pastors and congregations as compromising with the world, “tickling the ears of the culture,” etc. Instead, so the story goes “If it’s popular it’s probably not true.” There was a small and faithful remnant in Israel and Jesus says that “not many will enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and “narrow is the way.” Since God wants us to be confronting the world (the majority of people in this system) and saying things that the world doesn’t want to hear, the criteria changes. And so we are small because we are faithful.
So which is it?
Perhaps one or the other. Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. As usual, this post is not about exploring what theology of numbers is correct, but about exploring how our insecurities, doublespeak, and systems of thought often lead others to (rightfully) label us hypocritical and manipulative.
Because what I have seen in the past is that when those small churches, who were so anti-numbers in the past, begin to grow, their narrative often begins to change. Now that they are the ones growing, it means they are being faithful. And their previous jealousy and hypocrisy is outed.
Don’t be the dude who rails against nice stuff just because he doesn’t have it. Either be the dude who is courageous enough to say he wishes he had nice stuff but just doesn’t right now or the dude who genuinely doesn’t want nice stuff, leaving those who do alone.
As usual, this isn’t about all churches. It’s not even about all evangelical churches. It’s just an observation that I don’t pretend to know the answer to.