We count everything. Maybe the peasant villagers in some poverty stricken nation count also. But count what? They have so little. But they probably count one goat with as much pride as the landowner in the same nation who can count 10,347 goats as his own.
I woke up with the word, “count” on my brain and I can not seem to escape it today. So, let’s count. We count everything and make it a standard of success or failure. If we have more than we did previously, or if what we have is greater in number than someone else, it needs to be counted. We count our money, our number of kids, square footage, acres, pairs of shoes, batting averages, calories, we count everything. And from those totals we derive if we have succeeded or if we have failed.
Having grown up in church I understand that administrators both lay and professional have to count. They have responsibilities and are accountable for those God has entrusted to their care. I get that. They count if the gifts coming into the church are greater than the expenses needed to fulfill the operations and if ministries of the church can go forward. They count the cars in the parking lot to see if the number of parking spaces still adequately meet the need of those attending. And, we count the people. I understand the need to evaluate growth and determine if the current facility is large enough to meet the demand of hopefully a growing congregation, both spiritually and in numbers. But does God really care?
Personally, I do not believe that God puts a strong emphasis on how many people are counted as present on any given Sunday in any given church across America and across denominational lines. Mega-churches who put out more press releases on the numbers attending than the number of people being transformed by God’s love and power say, “Ouch!”
And I cringe when someone asks me regarding the college age group I serve, “how many are you running in your class?” God doesn’t care how many came on that specific day, why should I? When it gets crowded in a church or christian gathering I don’t think he weighs out our comfort and attendance levels. We do that as American christians. Ask someone from a part of the world where Christianity is forbidden and those who gather in Christ’s name could be imprisoned or killed, just for being there, ask them if they were comfortably jammed into some secret location gathered together with other persecuted christians. What God truly cares about is that those present, one or ten thousand and one, have they gathered in whatever the location, with a desire to spend those next few moments or hours focused on Christ, focused on things that matter, focused on our love for God and His love for others.
Yet we count anyway. And yes, I am as guilty as the next. When our class of 18-25 year olds swells to capacity my chest and ego swells with pride. And that should not be. What should be the sole emphasis? That God was honored by those gathered. Fortunately, my family and I serve in a church where the intent is for God to be honored above all else.
In the Bible I went through a lot of the verses where the word “count” was used. Yes, God does have the ability to count and has an interest in round numbers both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. But did not seem to have the need to count those present or being added to the church down to the tens and ones.
Wanna example of when it did not go very well in counting God’s people? Check out these two verses.
“Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” I Chronicles 21:1
“God was displeased with this thing and struck Israel.” I Chronicles 21:7
Read on in that chapter. The consequences were pretty severe.
Enough of that rant. I am guilty as the next, so, “I best shut up”, as they say.
You know what I believe God does count? I believe He counts the acts of kindness we bestow on others and the orphans and widows we bring aid to, to the person in need with none and we are able to help them so they have some. He counts the number of people who fall upon an altar and cry out to God and sling all the junk of their messy lives into His care. And I tell you where I am glad he does not count…is in my own life and my own “screw-ups”. (Yes that is a spiritual term.) So is the word “train-wreck”. At times, I am a “SCREWED-UP TRAIN WRECK!”. And I know a few others as well. But whose counting.
What if on one day we did not count the number of times someone else was curt with us and we count it against them for years. When someone abuses their authority or position over us or others in the workplace and we count that persons sins and judge them one by one. I am personally guilty of that one.
Just for today, just for twenty four hours, what if we were able to forgive those who trespass against us. Again, being transparent here. I can think of a few people, but not more than five, that I would like to take out in to the street and beat the crap out of. Was that too transparent? Saint Francis of Assissi and Mother Theresa I ain’t. Just a fellow Christian traveler struggling to learn more about God’s love for me so that I might display it to others. Oh yeah. And the part about “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” I left that part out earlier.
And I am convicted, shredded and pierced by the following verse of which I can not add to nor take away from. For it brings me to shame and causes me to loosen my clinched fists and to open my heart and use my hands and my words for good not evil.
This is why I believe and appreciate that God is not big on counting.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Romans 4:8
I am that man. Count that.