by Rob Freshour
HIGHLAND, MI – I turn 60 this year. Crazy! I read a report years ago suggesting if a person reaches age 60, they are expected to live another 22 years on average. I may graduate to glory by the time I am 82. The first six decades evaporated like misty breath in Michigan winter. None of us knows how many days we have left here. We do know the rest of our lives starts now. How can I make the rest of my life the best of my life?
The best way I know to make a difference is to invest in other people. I look around these days and see much to distract us and discourage us. Maybe I can deposit a word of hope here, a little ray of sunlight and blue sky in this grey season.
These days, I shepherd a delightful Michigan church who for two years prior to COVID-19 averaged 60 people in attendance. Midway through February 2021, we are seeing 29 people per Sunday. (We suspended in-person gatherings for most of 2020.)
Most days, I am thrilled to do what I do now. Some days, however, I slip into the muck of what Priscilla Shirer calls “comparative righteousness,” a deceitful and dangerous substitute for truth. Our foe delights in trapping us with wrong metrics and lesser motives for dubious pursuits of questionable success.
We pastors are especially susceptible to the allure of numbers. Almost six out of ten churches today average less than 100 people in Sunday worship. This number has been expanding for more than a decade now. According to a 2015 study, less than 20 percent of these churches have “high spiritual vitality.” Depressing, right?
Numbers can be our friend. They can also trick us. Sam Rainer reminds us that churches of 25, 50, and 100 are common. If we pastor a smaller church, we may feel less significant than larger churches. Larger churches are the exception, not the norm. What we see or think we see with our physical eyes cannot compare to what is actually true, what is happening in the spiritual realm, the real world.
Some simple reminders keep me hopeful. First, healthy church growth ONLY accompanies healthy personal growth in the leadership. Church growth that does not is risky and perilous to the leader, the church, and the community. (Think RZIM as a reference.)
Jesus tells us He will build His church (Matthew 16:18). We are invited to partner with Him to populate Heaven with our friends, our family, our neighbors, and the nations. My advice: You do you, and let Jesus do Jesus. By the way, “you do you” for a Christ-follower is always letting Jesus do Jesus.
Jesus did attract large numbers; however, He shepherded a small group. At most, the size of His congregation was 70 or 72 people (Luke 10). His shepherding style was to make disciples whom He then charged to do what He did – make disciples. We cannot make disciples from the pulpit, no matter how large an audience we draw.
Jesus does not compare us to other disciples. As with Peter, when the Lord deals with us, He calls us to love Him and to follow Him. He is not in the habit of talking to us about someone else’s story (John 21:20-22).
Everybody needs Jesus. Not everybody thinks they need Jesus, but most will wonder at some point. Live your life in such a way that when the people who know you wonder if they need Jesus, they will think of you and decide you might be able to help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Freshour came to Michigan in 2002 to join the BSCM-Church Growth Ministries Team. In 2006, Rob went to pastor one of our Michigan churches. Today he pastors the Highland Community Church in Highland, MI.