There are times when pastors and members of small churches can feel discouraged when they look at their numbers. The people of God long to see their churches full of souls who are being saved and shepherded. It is tempting to look online at your favorite preacher’s church and see scores of people who pour into his church’s services. Our culture is consumed with results and numbers as a way of validation. There are many small time pastors who are faithful to preach the gospel and in a moment of despair ask, “Why are our pews empty? Does God not bless faithful preaching?”
Friend, don’t fixate upon your numbers as a means of validation. This is not to say that numbers don’t matter. Numbers represent souls, and souls matter. However, when we gather together on the Lord’s day, it is not a time to look to our numbers, but to lift our gaze and look to Christ. When you observe the numerical success of your favorite preacher, be encouraged that God is at work when He brings the hearts of men to Himself, rather than discouraged it is not you who has the numbers. When the temptation to question God arises, remember that God is not obligated to bless your preaching with numbers. All that our churches have is grace.
Let me encourage you that while the Luther’s, Calvin’s, and Spurgeon’s of the world were vital to church history, they are the exception, not the norm (in terms of numbers). The church of Jesus Christ grows and is carried throughout history by millions of little people in a million little places. God delights to work through weak vessels that are small in the world’s eyes. The greatest preacher who ever lived is probably someone that only fifty people have ever heard preach. You may be small, but the gospel is not.
Stay faithful, my friends. Shepherd the flock of God among you.