Worship by the Numbers

Church Signs Easter

Easter Sunday — High Attendance Day?

Over the years I have seen some churches display evidence that they would do just about anything to get people to attend weekly services.  Worst of all, when just looking at attendance numbers, much of our push includes trying to get our own members to come to church.  This says much about church discipline, the kind of disciples we are making, and other serious ecclesiastical problems that are too comprehensive for a blog-post.  Promotional campaigns and church signs range from the sublime to the ridiculous with a seeming preponderance toward the latter.  For decades churches have programmed celebrities, advertised special benefits, and of course modernized their music to do what Whoopee Goldberg said in the movie, Sister Act, and “put butts in the seats” (pardon the crudeness).  George Barna, Lifeway Christian Research department and other research operatives have invested millions in the study and monitoring of all things spiritual, Christian, and church related.  Since quantitative analysis provides the most accessible means of evaluating what might be taking place in the spiritual climate of communities, nations, and/or the whole world, then it is natural for us to seek to quantify most things related to worship.  First on that list of things would be worship attendance.  Ask any pastor, worship leader, or other responsible churchman how their church is doing, and the answers you will receive are likely to have to do with numbers.  For certain in my denomination most will, in fact, go there right off the bat.  My conversations with church leaders often sound like this:

Me:  “How is your church doing these days?”

Leader:  “Well, we started the new year off in a slump, but we have been picking up in recent weeks.”

Me:  “And what does ‘up’ mean for your church these days?”

Leader:  “We are doing good to hit ‘______’ (attendance number) on a good Sunday.”

As I am sure you know, it seems to always be about the numbers.  Admittedly, I am not that guy, and not being a big numbers guy in a big numbers world brings problems.  I trust there is room for both – quantitative and qualitative emphasis.  I am definitely more prone to inquire toward the intangibles like spirit, unity, or apparent engagement in worship.  Those kinds of questions are often met with less specificity, which is of course their nature, but I pray they prod a broader spectrum of thinking.  Even questions of congregational participation in worship acts like singing, listening, scripture reading, etc.  can leave us with little more than quantity to offer answers.  While we would all hopefully state emphatically that how many people have their hands raised during worship singing is no indication of a level of worship, there is little doubt that such activity denotes some kind of evaluative impression in our minds.


Granted, full house carries a certain level of excitement.  Feelings are stirred, and can we admit, we leaders feel “successful” when the room is full.  Let us be reminded that while man looks on the outer appearance, including activity and even simple attendance, God looks on the heart.  Sometimes a “down Sunday” is a proverbial gut check.  Who are we here to worship really?  What determines the “success” of worship?  Is the Gospel message less relevant to those who are present just because others are not?  Likewise, an “up Sunday” might have similar assessments.  Is worship better because there are more here?  Is God really any less magnified?

Whether numbers are up or numbers are down, God reigns.  His command to love the Lord, our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is not predicated on quantity.  Our commission to go into all the world, making disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is not only a direction for diligent missionary living, but also reminds us that we are in His constant presence without which we are indeed powerless.  It is to Him that all authority in heaven and earth has been given.

Perhaps during Holy Week our churches will be at their fullest point of the year.  May our rejoicing rest with great certainty in the Victorious Jesus!  Certainly we all pray that many will hear and respond to the Gospel message in this Easter season.  Leaders, may we aid disciples by keeping the attention on that Gospel, and not on numbers, attendance excitement, or any other distraction.  Christian worshipers have responsibility to declare His praise in light of the glorious Gospel message.  As fellow sinners saved by the magnificent grace of our Lord, saved through His finished work, let us resound with the clear tone of victory in Jesus, and declare that it is In Christ Alone that we stand, where sins chains have dropped and we are free with no guilt in life, no fear in death.  Sing it!  Proclaim it!   


Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “Worship by the Numbers”

  1. […] And it can be temping in those times to feel pretty good about the numbers. When you think about it, it can be temping on any given week to focus on the numbers and use that as our measure. But although we’re called to make disciples and we’re certainly expected to bring more people into God’s family, we can’t lose sight of why we gather. I like how Paul Clark puts it in his post Worship By The Numbers: […]

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