Most of us know enough to say that size does not matter. And while we know it shouldn’t matter, let’s be honest, it actually does. We ask the size question in various ways. “So...how many attend your Sunday service now?” “What’s your program attendance?" Or, “How many staff do you have?” “What’s your annual budget?”
As soon as these kinds of questions are asked, our biggest task is to hide the wide-eyed look of insecurity to pretend we don’t care about being compared to something. Some of the thoughts that can go through our heads include “Maybe I’ll round up to make it sound better.” “Maybe I’ll give a range that includes the attendance at the Christmas Eve service.” Depending on who is asking, maybe I’ll say something about the good things happening in people’s lives.
“Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John” (John 4:1). Evidently, the professionally religious really do care – even in Jesus day – about size. They are concerned about someone else in town getting more of the spiritual action than they get. They are trying hard to hide their indignation that another pastor seems to be attracting more people to his church. When another leader is asked to write the spiritual column in the local paper, for instance, the professionally religious think, “Why don’t I get asked to do that?”
If we really believe we are not in competition with each other, if we mean what we say about the kingdom of God being more important than our individual church’s growth, then is transfer growth really all that bad? The professionally religious feel a personal rejection when someone leaves their church or ministry and links arms with another. And yes, I do understand that these types of decisions affect deep relationships between leaders and their people. But how often is my reaction about the potential loss of relationship, and how often is it about how it reflects badly on me when someone leaves my church and attends somewhere else?
Is my value as a leader directly related to quantifiable indicators of success such as achieving an attendance goal? Am I spending lots of time and emotional energy trying to fill seats? Do I feel personally rejected when people decide to attend somewhere else? Answering yes to any of these should cause me to question whether I’m building my kingdom or God’s.
If we understood our role as servants as opposed to that of the professionally religious, we really wouldn’t care about being compared to anyone or any other organization. No true servant that I know would take pride in knowing they have more work or more to look after than other servants. The role of competition in servanthood is of no use at all. The only thing a true servant takes joy in hearing is from the Master when He says, “Well done!”
An excerpt from the book Professionally Religious.