By Jerry Harris
I’ve asked a few fellow megachurch pastors why they no longer submit numbers to Christian Standard’s annual report. The most common reason I have heard is a concern that either pride or a spirit of competition is connected with reporting average attendance and baptisms. I can understand that, but I would like to share some reasons why I think it’s extremely important for all churches to submit their statistics.
1. No matter our location or size, we are all on the same team. When our numbers go up, the kingdom is growing, and that is worth celebrating. We hear so many negative comments about the church today; it’s valuable to see that God is doing incredible things in our movement, even if it’s not happening at our local church right now.
2. Growing churches in every category provide a network for best practices. All sorts of models and methods are working in our movement’s churches across the country. Having a network from which to learn and adapt is a great way to help revive our local ministry and begin growing again. Our churches will be far more inclined to lean in and share those practices with others who share the same plea.
3. The largest churches aren’t always the best examples. Some smaller churches are much more influential in their communities than their larger neighbors. The smaller churches’ methods might be far more exportable than those of the larger churches. When our church was smaller, I went to a major conference at a huge church . . . and walked away discouraged. I heard almost nothing our church could reproduce. There are prevailing churches in every demographic on this list that can provide great examples of effective ministry.
4. The quickest way to stop growing is to stop learning. There is a nearly inexhaustible supply of creativity and wisdom in this movement, and we just need to find a way to connect it. If I found a new, innovative, and God-honoring way of doing something that would work in my congregation, why wouldn’t I want to explore that? What if I discovered a way to do something more effectively and cheaper at the same time?
5. Pride cuts both ways. There may be a dark side to reporting numbers, but not reporting statistics can have a dark side too. By opting out of the survey, we might feel we are suppressing a spirit of competition or pride. In reality, however, we might be sacrificing the interdependence necessary to help us all get better. Our autonomy may be one of our most dearly held distinctives, but it can also isolate us from others to the detriment of the overarching goal of growing Christ’s kingdom.
6. Anonymity does not edify the larger church. Our largest churches have get-togethers where they share best practices and encourage one another. I remember how isolated I felt until my church grew large enough to be invited to one of these events. The problem was, I wasn’t invited until The Crossing’s attendance climbed to almost 2,000! Networking with other churches that serve in similar circumstances can be priceless.
7. We need more opportunities to celebrate wins with one another. Wins come in all shapes and sizes. Where else but Christian Standard can we celebrate them together. Trust me, most of the churches who don’t report their numbers still celebrate their wins—they just do it with an exclusive group of people. I don’t see the virtue in not celebrating, especially when we can give God the glory for it. After all, he’s the one who gives the increase!
I took on the role of publisher because I believe it’s critical to leverage the power that comes from our unity, but we can’t unite with churches we know little or nothing about. The church is the hope of the world, and we can accomplish far more together than apart!