When Churches Boast in Numbers
“For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 3:5-8
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy loved the Thessalonian church. They had a somewhat parental concern and care for them. In 1 Thessalonians 3:7, Paul writes, "For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith." Timothy had just come back from a visit with good news for the other apostles. The Thessalonian church was growing. Not in number per say, but in their faith. Timothy saw a love and obedience in these new disciples that made him certain their work there had not been in vain.
Notice the lack of concern for growth in numbers. Today, it's normal to hear about 10,000 people saved in Malawi or 45 at a block party. But where's the concern for the growth in faith? We were called to make disciples, not just converts. The Apostles cared far less about numbers and far more about the fruit of genuine saving faith...and we would do well to do the same. Paul was concerned the enemy had snatched away the seeds he had planted (1 Thessalonians 3:5). The church claimed Christ, but until Paul could see the proof of lives changed by Christ, he didn't affirm their salvation. No, it wasn't until he saw the fruit of true faith that he rejoiced and said, "For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God" (1 Thessalonians 3:8-9).
It's not about how many. It's not about boasting in numbers. These are human hearts that need regeneration. And once regenerate, they need to be discipled. While churches boast on Sunday mornings in the 800 souls saved that week, I wonder if Paul would say, "But do you know if they're truly saved? Or is your boasting in vain?"
God, we praise You for the many souls You have saved and the ones You will save in the future. Thank You that we get to not only be a mouthpiece to spread Your gospel but also tools to make disciples. We pray that instead of boasting in numbers, churches would seek to truly make followers of Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Is there someone God has placed on your heart to pour into? I encourage you to follow His lead. May we all seek to make disciples of Jesus.