Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Do We Keep Count? And Is Our Count Accurate?

The unexpected always catches us by surprise. (Duh! Yahhh!.)

Last night when the women walked into the classroom I realized we had a full house. Packed! I was momentarily taken aback because I had planned for only twelve. I had brought in 12 copies of the lesson and here we had eighteen women! I handed out the lesson, asking friends to share.

Why do I keep count? Surely the count doesn't count, right? God is the one who keeps count, not we.

Somehow, it has always bugged me when Christians report a "count" after presenting some mission venture or children's day camp or any sort of meeting where the gospel was presented. The statement seems to go something like this....and I exaggerate a bit..."We had 982.5 people come to Christ last night!" Or..."There were 982 and a half people who were saved last night." And in the meantime, perhaps all but a few of those people will have gone their merry way, continuing to live life as they have always lived it, never again thinking a single thought about who God is and who they are in relationship to Him. But We! Oh, we have self-satisfaction in presenting the "NUMBER"!

I'm joking, of course, about the half. It's the presentation of a "count" that bugs me. The numbers are always presented as if 982 people are now most assuredly "in the kingdom". People who prior to the meeting (of whatever kind) were not. Not saved, that is. Not saved until we were able to count them.

This is how I see it. Just because someone raises their hand or "comes forward" or "says a prayer" does not mean they have become believers. The pressure of the situation, the desire to please, the "crowd think", or even a momentary hopeful whim can all be part of anyone's particular "assent". Many times, in presenting the gospel and asking for a response, a subtle manipulation occurs that isn't even subtle. And we do that because we want the "number". For indeed (to our way of thinking) if we do not have the numbers, then our work was for nought. (Please note that I am not speaking here of a sincere message by the messenger that every hearer can freely come to Christ with his plea for salvation and his prayer of repentance. That is a true call to the hearer.)

Sometimes we use numbers out of a mistaken notion (error, if you please) that our work is all about us and all about numbers. But you see....the work is not ours! The work is God's work. He is the "author" of salvation, the One who calls, the One who regenerates, the One who gives spiritual life to another soul. It is our task merely to present the gospel...the "story of God's dealing with man".....the creation, man's fall, God's provision for redemption.

Romans 1:16 says that the "gospel" is the power of God for salvation for those who hear. It is the presentation of the gospel, the good news that God provides redemption for His people, that brings people to Him. It is not our job to count. It is not our job to manipulate. It IS our job to speak the gospel, to let people know of God's great work on their behalf.

We also know this...that only God knows a man's heart. And it is only God who knows whether any of those people are counted as one of His. In fact He is the one who initiates. He does the calling. He does the regenerating. He does the work. We just do the talking. And the loving.

And if this is so...that it is God's work and God's work alone that causes a heart to turn to Him, then shouldn't we be a bit careful in stating (as if it were the truth) that 982.5 people were indeed "brought into the kingdom" at that last event? Isn't that profound presumption on our part? And in that presumption aren't we giving glory to ourselves rather than glory to God?

So having said all of the above, let me assure you that I am not quoting "numbers" for the sake of making some wild claim. I'm merely stating that last night we had a LOT of ladies come to class.

So even though I count, I am not counting as if I have accomplished any great thing. I keep track of the ladies for specific purposes. I have them "sign in" at the beginning of class for several reasons.

First, I want to know how many on a given night are brand-new faces. If they are there for the first time I recognize that I must keep the lesson solidly basic for those new faces. Any new face may be with us only a class or two and so I try to present the basic gospel every night. It may be the only opportunity to do so for certain individuals.

Secondly, if the women are in for a long time and have been or will be coming to class week after week, then I want to not only lay the basics, but also to add upon what I've laid out the week before. To go deeper.

And thirdly, having names in front of me helps me, indeed reminds me, to pray for these women. (Some of them were praying for me, too, during my cancer treatment!)

Last night we talked about God the Creator. Our lesson was taken from study notes in the Reformation Study Bible (click for more info). Three main points and accompanying scriptures.

The three main points...
  1. In the work of creation, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acted together. (You can touch the scriptures and "read" the verses)
    Genesis 1:1-2, Psalm 33:6, Psalm 33:9, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-16, Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 11:3
  2. God is self-existent and self-sustaining. The created universe is held together by God and without this activity of the divine Son, every creature of every kind, including ourselves, would cease to exist. Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3, Acts 17:25-28
  3. God has created each one of us and knows each one of us before we were born. Psalm 139:13 and Psalm 139:16
For next week's class I will print out 20 copies of the lesson and pray that I will need every copy! Can you tell I love these ladies!

P.S. You can read R.C. Sproul's introduction to the Reformation Study Bible here.



Dorothy said...

I'm right there with you, Whitestone. I just don't see anything in His Word that God is a numbers kind of guy. So if we are emulating Him, why do we get so fixated on numbers?

Debra said...

Your class sounds wonderful-wish I could come!

Kelly said...

I think you made some very valid points here.

For me, numbers are just important when I'm wanting to make sure everyone has a copy of whatever handout I've provided. Then again, not having enough is usually a nice problem!

I'm not familiar with that study Bible. What translation does it use? I'll have to look it up.

phylliso said...

I must get a copy of that bible,I am going to try to follow you,I can`t seem to click on your followers list,phylliso

Debbie said...

Excellent! And here I thought I might be the only one who has any difficulty with "numbers" in that sort of context. How we, as Christians, sometimes focus on the "quantity and not the quality" of coming to Christ, if I can say it that way. Very well said.