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The crowd of one

There is a strange mental war that goes on in the minds of minister-types (which, I suppose, means me). There is this thing that goes on in your head that says that things aren't going right, or are truly successful, until you have big or growing numbers. This pressure is also external, because it is the one truly tangible thing that can be measured in a spiritual work, so other leaders and elders and such like to look at numbers as a significant measure.

I have come into the leadership of a ministry that to me is small. I just ran a retreat that included 24 people in total, after doing similar things with other groups of 70, 100, and etc. So, naturally, something in the far reaches of my head was a little bit disappointed simply because a scraggly group of 24 does not have that outward visual impressiveness of a room packed with a hundred bodies.

But the funny thing is, every time I start seriously finding myself getting slowed by that mindset, God does something that shows me that the spiritual effect on one person is enough to send all the angels in heaven rejoicing. God uses one person, in a special moment, to show me that He is alive and active and working with a kind of power that I cannot even begin to fathom. Why am I wanting to see hordes of people when God is over in the corner breaking and transforming the heart of a girl who just moved across the country in part to escape a life of debauchery and is just now seeing the light of trust and dependence on others? Why do I sit in my office dreaming of hundreds and hundreds of students streaming to an on-campus worship experience and then have to be reminded of where God really is by being suddenly moved to stand up and walk downstairs to discover a tearful freshman on the front porch of the campus center?

Numbers seemed to be one of the last things on the mind of Jesus. Certainly he challenged the followers to take the message everywhere, but if he was aiming for loads of people during his ministry, he sure came up short big time. And even in the moments where he had the most people, he quickly turned that sour by offering them up some "hard teachings." It seems that one of the perks of being the Son of God is not having to have your ego stroked and feeling like you are winning some kind of spiritual competition. It's the kind of leadership that knows that sitting and talking with a foreign woman getting some water is a world changing event. Being the Son of God gives you the confidence to be okay with the fact that only twelve people (one of whom would be a betrayer and another a denier) are sitting around with you before you are headed off to die for what supposedly is the redemption of all humanity.

So, I wonder, what are we looking to for satisfaction of a job well done before God? Stadiums of people holding candles and singing worship songs? A full house on Sunday morning? Or could it be that God is over in the shadows, slowly softening the heart of that unknown college student walking down the sidewalk, and is going to use you to cross paths in some random way at just the right time? In a way that will never be readily apparent to others? Could it be that what God is up to is for you to answer that IM that pops up at midnight from someone fighting an addiction? These things aren't necessarily going to mean, or even sometimes be connected to, numerically growing ministries or churches. But that's okay, because God has called you to his work - wherever it is and whatever it looks like. It's not about success, it's about faithfulness.


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