“Numbers aren’t important.” Really? Tell that to Jesus and his parables of growth and fruitfulness. Tell it to the Acts of the Apostles. Tell it to John Wesley. Will Willimon
|Why do we treat God's grace as a measurable commodity?|
Maybe numbers are truly important, but a fixation on the measurable- where does that lead us? Do we begin to lift up the sign as the main measure of ourselves- and God?
"Elijah, how many really witnessed Yahweh showing up Baal when that altar sacrifice was zapped? How many real prophets of Baal were slayed today? Are those good numbers?"
These are the questions of a sign-driven faith. The effect for Elijah was spiritual desolation. I Kings 19:4. Once Elijah hears from God, it isn't in any of the normal ways of weather, plate tectonics, or pyrotechnics, but in the white noise or "sound the sheer silence." I Kings 19:2
What if living in the Kingdom of God is more about dropping our categories of what is cost effective and leveraging scarce resources- and adopting God's economy of grace? If we decided to live into God's realm, we'd have a chance to be more generous and grateful, because with Jesus' God, there is always enough grace and love for everyone.
This God enables the good stewards to let go of "their" talents in the first place- in order to invest it, so that it can make more. Matt. 25 Acts? The Acts records that "the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." Acts 2:47 So, while telling people how popular you are helps, one thing Acts teaches us, the fact is, that the Lord is the One overseeing the harvest and adding to the numbers.
No I cannot reduce any New Testament parable or the Acts of the Apostles to a call to simply add more numbers to our church rolls, or not to. Once you have done that, you lose the radical message of God's over-abundance, and the generosity of the Spirit's gifts. You ruin any chance for fruitfulness because you have made everything about yourself, your survival, not about the One who is super abundant with grace and goodness. Psalm 23
If we only learn to read the numbers, we'll be all right, we're told. But sharing the life to which God has called you does not first require better measurable data. In fact, it may first require only one or two others with whom you can be yourself, gathered in Jesus' name.