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10 Ways to Count Numbers in a Church

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10.  Make up a random number.  Don’t even worry if it is accurate.  I have seen this happen too many times for it to even be a “funny”.  I was once in a meeting that the preacher said had 5000 in attendance, but the venue didn’t seat more than 3000 and it couldn’t have been more than 1/2 full.  There is a church not too far from us with 400 seats that claims 1000 people in attendance every Sunday service.

9. Find out what the other churches around you have, add 10-25% and claim that as your figure, never mind if the other churches are even accurate.  If the largest church in town claims 5000, claim 6000.  Easy one!

8. Make a rough guess.  The problem with this is you always overestimate – and if you are from another church you always underestimate.  There may be 1500 people in a service, the pastor will guess 2000.  The visiting pastor will guess 1100.  It’s human nature, whether we like it or not.

7. Count seats, whether someone is in them or not.  If your church has a capacity of 1000, then you had 1000 people this Sunday if your hall looked reasonably full.  Of course, there may be only 600 people there and the hall will look full (halls look full at 60% of capacity).  But that figure sounds better.  If you are on TV you can do even better – if there are 10 million people in England with SKY boxes and you are on Sky, then quote your audience as 10 million even though 98% of them would never go anywhere near any of the Christian channels.

6. Count everyone in each service.  So, you have a week long crusade with 3-4 services a day.  That’s maybe 20 services.  So, you have 1000 people in each service… then surely that means you had 20000 people in your crusade?  That’s how a lot of churches I know count their crusade attendance.  They don’t explain that’s how they got their figure leaving you with the impression that there were 20000 people in EACH service.  It’s not honest.

5. Count arms and legs.  I am sure that is what some people must be doing! 

4. Do a little creativity with numbers.  If you have 70 people in your church, tell people it is between 5 and 600.  You are not lying because 70 is between FIVE and SIX-HUNDRED!  It’s more than 5!  It’s less than 600!  If people are misled it’s only because they were not listening properly.

3. Count the church roll or register.  In Tree of Life, in the last six months over 100 children have been in a registered Tree of Life children’s meeting.  Have we ever had 100 children in a service?  No – the most we have ever had is 36 children in one service.  Lots of churches will say they have a membership of 4000, but there are less than 1000 on any given Sunday. Some of those 4000 are deceased, some live in another nation, some are on the membership rolls of many many churches.

2. Count the highest service of the year and present that as normal.  Yes, you got 250 at Easter with the guest footballer giving his testimony and handing out 30000 invites.  But if you normally have 100, that’s not the figure you should be saying is the number of people at your church.

1. Actually, physically count the number of adults and children in each Sunday service.  The actual number of physical human beings present in the particular meeting.  Radical, I know – but it’s a figure you can work with.  And it will provoke you to work harder!

Jesus is not the reason for the season…

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Every year we get people telling us “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. It rhymes, it sounds spiritual, but it isn’t true!

Jesus is not the reason for Christmas. Jesus has existed for all eternity as part of the Godhead. The reason the Word became flesh wasn’t for His benefit, wasn’t for His safety, wasn’t for His joy. No – God joined the human race, and submitted Himself to the form and la

ws and life of a human not for selfish reasons, but for you.

You are the reason for the season. Christmas is about a God who saw you could never do enough to impress Him, never be able to earn peace with Him – never even have enough control over your own stinking heart and flesh to be able to try! And God became human, the Word became flesh, baby Jesus was born so that you could have a Saviour who is and was touched with every infirmity, that He would understand your weaknesses, and so He could die as a human and redeem all humanity from the curse of the law.

Christmas is about you. It’s about a God who is not demanding anything from you but who wants to pour His life and righteousness and peace into you. A God who became flesh for you. The angels sang “Peace on earth”. They didn’t sing peace in heaven, because there has always been peace in heaven. Christmas is for us on the earth; it is for you and for me.

Thank you, Jesus!

More on Celebrating Christmas

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Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Excerpt from a sermon by Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

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This week, after sending out our weekly Wednesday Wisdom email, someone replied asking the question “does God really want us christians perpetuating an old tradition that is full of pagan influences?”  The implication was that I should not have encouraged Christians to celebrate Christmas.

It’s a good question and it deserves a full, Biblical and considered answer.  No one knows precisely when Jesus was born, although all scholars are agreed it certainly wasn’t in the middle of December.  Some information regarding when Zechariah was serving as a priest seems to lead to the us conclusion Jesus  was born in early September (ironically leading to a conception date of er… about the end of December!).  However, what date you celebrate something is not an issue, as the Queen knows full well!  The issue is whether Christians should celebrate Christmas at all.

I would have three answers for this question.

The first answer is that the first Christmas was celebrated.  I mean it was really wildly celebrated.  Wise men came from overseas to celebrate and worship the Word that had become flesh.  Shepherds came to worship and celebrate.  Angels in their scores turned up and praised and celebrated.  The first Christmas was a time of celebrating the fact that the Word became flesh.

Secondly, the Bible is very clear.  You must never let anyone judge you according to the days you keep (Col. 2.15).  You might think I am a stinky pagan for keeping Christmas but Biblically speaking I don’t care.  It has to be that way because the Bible says so.  If you want a tree, don’t let anyone judge you.  If you don’t want a tree, don’t let anyone judge you.  If you want a holly wreath, don’t let anyone judge you.

Someone might tell you that pagans had trees in their house or pagans had holly wreaths to protect you from demons.  Well, if you think holly protects you from demons you need help.  But putting leaves up in a house to make it look pretty is not a sin, is not pagan and is not a problem.  Man looks on outward things but the Lord looks on the heart.  If you judge someone for having a tree or having a wreath up, you are the carnal one, not the one who has the tree!  If you judge someone for taking their children to the shopping centre to see Santa and get a gift, then you are the worldly one.

Worldliness is not about what you do on the inside it is about the heart.  Fear is worldly.  Shame is worldly.  Sickness and poverty is worldly.  Worldly minded Christians would rather sit in the dark and in the silence rather than sing a few upbeat carols and enjoy the season!  Why?  Fear.  Shame.  Darkness.  Thinking like the world!

We need to be living as lights in the world.  Use Christmas as an opportunity to share the gospel of the Word that has become flesh.  Now if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, I won’t judge you, but just make sure your motives are pure that you are doing it out of love rather than fear.  Make sure you are not doing it out of a sense of pride to make you feel like a better Christian than someone else.

Thirdly, Christmas is a great time of year to reach out to the community.  I personally believe that Christmas has been designed as a time to be spiritual and full of faith and to impact the community.  It’s the only time of the year you can talk about angels and not have people think you are loopy.  It’s a great time to talk about Jesus because it is in the backs of people’s minds.

Now, of course the devil wants people to be materialistic.  The devil wants people to be carnal.  But he doesn’t care if you are carnal because you drink too much or you are carnal because you drink nothing and hate in your heart anyone who has a glass of wine.  He doesn’t care if you are carnal because you max out two credit cards on Christmas or because you spend nothing on your children and judge and condemn people who buy their children presents.

Just as a personal aside, I buy my children presents all year round.  Just a few weeks ago, I bought my eldest an electric guitar.  I love my children and love giving good gifts to them.  This Christmas it has been quite pleasant: they don’t really know what to ask for, they already have so much!  Saves us a bit of money!  I don’t recommend going into debt for Christmas one bit.

Now as a pastor who has spent a lot of time door knocking and handing out tracts and invites in the street, inviting people to church gets a certain response.   Inviting people to a carol service gets a MUCH BETTER response.  Christmas opens people’s hearts to the church.  Which means you have more opportunities to get the gospel to them.  Which I like!

So, I say: enjoy Christmas.  Have a great time.  And as I said in my email on Christmas:

When you celebrate Christmas remember Jesus has already saved you from your sins.  It is not a future event anymore – it is a done deal.  Jesus Christ paid the full price for every sin you have ever committed and for every sin you will ever commit.

You are forgiven, redeemed, righteous and pure.  You are holy and clean and blessed and filled.  You have the spirit of Christ inside you.  God Himself lives inside you.  You have peace with God.  You have been declared righteous.  You have been made righteous.  You have been saved from your sins.

Every time you hear the name Jesus this week translate it: “The One Who Has Completed Rescued Me From my sins.”

You are free from the penalty of every single sin you have ever committed and ever will commit.  You are eternally redeemed.

Sin has been completed and totally dealt with.  You don’t need to be afraid of God.  He is not angry with you, He is not at war with you.  He is not upset with you.  He loves you and He likes you.  He is your Father and is rejoicing over you with singing and dancing.

It doesn’t matter if you went and wasted your life in sin, He simply wants you to fellowship with Him and give you a robe and a ring.

It doesn’t matter if you publically denied Jesus in front of everyone.  In weeks you could be preaching at the next revival.  That’s how Jesus restored Peter.  Why?  Because on the cross Jesus totally dealt with every sin Peter every committed and every would commit.

And Jesus has totally dealt with your sin.  This Christmas enjoy His love and goodness.

Last post before Christmas…

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I am going to be fairly busy the next couple of days, as I know you all will be. I just want to wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.

I will continue the Sower Sows the Word series as soon as the holiday season is over.

Please feel free to ask any questions you have by putting them in the comments section.

Blessings,
Ben

The Three Real Gifts of Christmas

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Our family today decided to visit a church we had never been to before.  There was a poster advertising their services in the local Christian bookshop and it seemed quite interesting.

It was a beautiful carol service, mainly Africans with a couple of Asians as well.  But it was something said during the preaching that has made me think.

The pastor said that the gifts that the Magi offered Christ of gold, frankincense and myrrh were not the real gifts they offered Christ.  He said that if we think that this is the true offering that Christ wants then we will be discouraged because we don’t own gold, we don’t have any frankincense and we would not have a clue how to source any myrrh.

He said the three real gifts that the Magi offered to Christ were time, worship and faith.  They took the time to change their schedule and their plans to go and meet with Christ.  They worshipped him.  They put their trust and their hope in Him.

And that is something each of us can do.  We can all change our schedules and re-prioritise our life so that we can meet with Christ.  We can all worship Christ, and we can all take Him at His Word this Christmas.

Although as a family we tried to sneak in to the back of the church and just enjoy the service, at the end the pastor said that the Lord had showed him that I was an anointed, kingdom man and that I should share a couple of words about Christmas.  I did share about the joy of knowing Christ and the reason for the season, but to be honest the real message about the real gifts of Christmas will have me thinking about my schedule, my worship and my faith over the festive season.

Blessings,

Ben

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