Pastors often say that church growth is not reflected in numbers.
Some even say that we should talk instead about church health and leave the growth to God.If you hang around a church long enough, you will probably hear a pastor or church leader de-emphasizing the importance of numbers.This is in response to the growing number of megachurches, or more practically, to explain especially low attendance.
Eventually, you will hear someone say that numbers do matter.We also feel this truth intrinsically. Numbers matter in the sense that God wants people to follow Him.There is a major difference between feeding 5 people or 5,000 people.Even if some church leaders get carried away and are driven by numbers, that does not make the numbers themselves wrong.After all, those numbers represent real people, with real lives and real souls.
In my opinion, while church growth is important, there is something more disconcerting happening within our midst. Namely, those who do attend church are sitting farther and farther away from each other.
In other words, there is “apartness” within our churches.Take a look around your church, and see if you see what I see:people sitting several feet, several chairs, even several rows apart.In visiting churches across the country – whether in Michigan or Texas – the story is the same.People are not sitting next to each other in church.How utterly sad and depressing is that?
The question, I suppose, comes down to this:Would you rather have 200 people sitting several seats apart, or 2 people sitting next to each other?Which picture is more pleasing to God?
The solution is not to leave your current church, as tempting as it may be.That would only compound the problem.If you really care about the “apartness” of Christian believers, and you want to create community within your church, try something radical – possibly even rude and offensive:
Sit next to someone.Talk to someone.Shake a hand, pat a shoulder, encourage one another.
You may think you are impeding on someone’s personal space, but do not let that fear get in the way of love.It is often the person that does not make eye contact, or who does not sit by anyone, that needs someone to say hello.People do not come to church to be ignored, and that goes for everyone – no matter who they are.
By doing something simple, like sitting next to someone in church, you will eventually see a change.Those around you will move closer and closer together.The hope, of course, is that our churches will be transformed from the inside-out.