Sunday, December 27, 2015
How many do you worship?
I hate it when decent nouns that we all know are turned into verbs and verbs become nouns. How many do you worship? Sure, I get it. The question is how many people show up in a given week for the Divine Service (or for entertainment worship, depending on what you do, I guess). But really? Has it come down to this?
I fear it has.
We worship statistics. We worship bigness. We worship size. God is working more in the mega churches than in the small, country parishes that make up more than significant number of LCMS parishes. We all know that. They have more people, more resources, more expertise, and more results. They know how to be church better than the little guys, right???
No, they don't.
We confuse activity with mission. We equate size with success. We value results over faithfulness. So when we must send in our stats to a district office or the national office of statistics for our church body, we are giving them a score card of our ability and God's reward. Or are we? Does being busy automatically mean being faithful? I am beginning to have grave suspicions about the way we worship at the altar of statistics and how we judge our work and God's by measurable results. It sounds good but is it good?
Jesus got lots of stats from eager disciples whom He had sent forth without many resources or much of program. They were happy to tell Him how demons trembled and doubters fainted away and sick were raised. But then Jesus does something interesting. He insists that they should not focus on these tangible results but rejoice that their names are written in the Book of Life. Frankly, we don't rejoice much over that today. We bust open in pride when we have good stats to show, when money comes rolling in, and when everyone thinks we are the cat's meow. But we have forgotten the joy that Jesus countered with the irrational exuberance of the disciples over results they thought were the marks of success.
How many do you worship? One God in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And Him only. That is how many we worship. Anything else and it does not matter. The unholy trinity of me, myself, and I may be puffed up by the numbers but if we are not faithfully proclaiming the whole counsel of God's Word, we are still not successful. Perhaps we need to hear this message just as urgently as the disciples did so long ago.
Oh, by the way. That parochial report will soon be due. Yes, fill it out. I would not suggest otherwise. But do not equate good numbers with success. We could give the people everything they want and boy would we look good... except to God.