Is it Biblical to Count Fruit and Report Numbers?
There are some people in our organization who have resisted the idea of counting and reporting of numbers. I think I understand their hearts. Sometimes when we count the number of believers and churches we have started, pride can come into our lives. Or, if our numbers are low, we can feel discouraged. I remember Youth Pastors meetings in my early ministry life where I felt so discouraged that the number of youth in my youth group was small. I hated being asked by someone how many youth I had at my church! Pride, insecurity, and a spirit of competition are certainly important things to guard our hearts against. We should also be careful not to become business minded or to look at our numbers for confidence instead of looking to God. This was actually the problem that God was trying to correct in David’s life when he told him at one time after he was very successful, not to count the army (2 Sam 24).
Sadly, some who have had bad experiences in this area base their entire understanding of this on this one time where God prohibited counting in David’s life. Instead, we need to look at the entire Bible and see what it says about counting, numbers, and the importance of reporting. Indeed, I believe that counting and accurate reporting of what God is doing through our ministry is very, very important to God and that it greatly pleases Him.
First of all, if God didn’t care about numbers, he wouldn’t have named an entire book of the Bible “Numbers”! The Old Testament is full of numbers! For one example, check out all the numbers listed in 1 Chronicles Ch 5-9. In the New Testament, in Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a good shepherd who counts His sheep. The shepherd carefully keeps track and counts to see if any sheep are missing. When he finds that one is gone, he goes in search of it. Jesus uses this parable to describe His heart for the Lost. I believe this story also speaks to us about how important every individual person is to him. Sometimes, as church planters, we are not very good shepherds. We are not careful to count and to check what is actually happening to those who are coming to faith. Have we gained or lost sheep this year? Counting helps us to keep track, to evaluate and make necessary changes. It helps us to see if we are losing or gaining precious souls in God’s kingdom. We count and report because we want to be careful and good shepherds who love their sheep, just like Jesus!
Another example that I’ve been talking about lately is the parable of the Minas found in Luke 19. In this story, the nobleman calls for a report of what was done with what had been given. Each year, when we count and report, we are able to see clearly and accurately what God is doing. If reporting wasn’t important to God, I don’t think this parable would be in the Bible. Will we be willing to be truly accountable for increasing what God has given us, both to God and to one another?
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, reporting helps us to give glory to God for what He has done. If numbers go up, God gets the glory. We celebrate and praise Him! How will we know if supernatural increase is happening if we don’t count? If numbers go down or stay the same, we don’t need to feel bad or beat ourselves up. In that case, we pray and evaluate where we need to make changes and determine in our hearts to pray and work to see something different happening in the future.
We would never want anyone to feel pressured to produce reports of greater fruit then what they have. As mentioned above, we MUST NOT enter into pride or competition and we need to guard our hearts against insecurity too. If someone else reports great increase, we celebrate together what God has done! If someone reports lower numbers, we stand together in prayer and think together how to help bring about change and greater fruit in that place or among that people group. We must be honest and use great integrity in the reports we give. God cares about accuracy and giving a complete and honest report of the truth (See Acts 5 for just how important honesty is to God!) And, we must be careful about releasing names and numbers to the wrong people or in a way that compromises our long term security and ministry. This however, should not keep us from reporting.
From the above examples, I’m sure we can all see that counting and reporting is definitely Biblical. Counting and reporting will greatly help us to glorify God, be good stewards and shepherds, to move forward in greater faith, and to correct ourselves in areas where we need to change in order to see increased fruitfulness in the future. Let’s fill out our reports with a pure heart to please the Master and to be faithful to Him!