Who does the adding?
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:41, 47
Pastors are burdened with guilt for a variety of reasons, but one common cause flows from reports. Regularly, pastors are called to give an account of the congregation and such reports can call into their minds feelings of inadequacy. Why aren’t the numbers as good as last year? From attendance figures to church offerings, pastors can easily feel like they are constantly being judged. Reports are for the purpose of measuring and measuring is always the way of the Law. Then, eight weeks after Easter, the pastor reads about three thousand being added to the number of disciples in one day.
Call committees also feel burdened that they have to “get it right” so that the next pastor can restore the congregation to its former glory. The declines that the congregation has experienced have to be blamed on someone and while the likely suspect is the former pastor, the next pastor is often saddled with unfair expectations.
When St. Luke records data recording the growth of the Church in Acts, his intent is not to create feelings of inadequacy among pastors or unrealistic expectations among laity, but to highlight the growth that God was giving to His Church. Luke notes that three thousand were added to their number on the day of Pentecost, he goes on to note that growth was happening daily and that it was the Lord who added to their number. As St. Paul reminded the Corinthians, it is God who gives the growth.
Pastors do not grow or save the Church. Christ is the Church’s Savior and the Spirit who came at Pentecost brings forth the growth of the Church, both spiritually and numerically. It is good for elders and laypeople to remind pastors that their sufficiency is in Christ, not their hard work or strategic plans. It is also good for pastors and laity alike to pray for the Spirit to continue to enlighten their congregation with His gifts and give growth according to the Father’s will. We can all rejoice and find comfort in God’s promise to be with us whether the number is two or three or three thousand. May God continue to give the growth and add to our number!
Prayer – Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful people and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan