1 Chronicles 21:1-6 – It’s About Quality And Not Quantity

Posted: May 12, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 21:1-6

David Counts the Fighting Men

In this age of megachurches, there has become a greater and greater emphasis on numbers. If you aren’t opening a couple of new campuses a year and you don’t have at least a thousand attendees at each campus, you are not successful in ministry. If your pastor is not a rock star kind of preacher and has not authored a couple of books and does not speak often a church growth seminars or how to lead a staff seminars or impacting your city seminars you are not successful. If you are not part of the megachurch trend, you are old, stuck in your ways, and dying and you are unsuccessful. If you have a steeple and an older building, you are not successful. If you don’t have a staff of young bucks with scruffy beards, 1960’s retro glasses, skinny jeans, a few well-placed tattoos and a hoody, you are not successful. If your worship band has not released an album or two, you are not successful. If you still have a pulpit, and a choir your church is not an auditorium with a stage, you are not successful. These are the marks of success in the church world today. If you are traditional, you are not successful.

Don’t get me wrong, I love modern worship styles. It is a long overdue breath of fresh air into the Christian faith. Every hundred years or so, God sends a fresh new way of doing things into the church to keep it alive. None of the things about modern worship and modern church are sinful in and of themselves. And, the new style, modern worship churches are reaching people that are definitely not being reached by traditional churches. There will be thousands of people in heaven because of the wave of modern worship styles that are sweeping the nation. The founder of the Methodist movement was considered a radical guy back in the 1700s – taking the church to the streets and trails where people gathered. Methodism exploded because of the radical approach to worshiping anywhere taken by John Wesley. Further, a lot of the hymns that we often consider sacred in traditional church now (as if the disciples themselves actually sung them) we considered trendy, radical songs back in the time they were written. Often, Charles Wesley (one of the most prolific songwriters of any period of history) would appropriate popular tunes of the day to set the wonderful theological treatises that his songs were to music. So, the breath of fresh air that modern 20th/21st century worship styles are in the grand tradition of God’s kicking Christianity in the pants to wake it up every few hundred years. Therefore, please do not think that I am anti-megachurch or anti-modern worship. I embrace both. From the time of my salvation until just recently, I “grew up” spiritually in modern worship settings. Therefore, modern worship is very dear to my heart and always will be. From what I have seen, these styles attract people and once there many of these large modern churches are truly impacting the kingdom in ways that traditional churches are not.

However, one of the things that I see in the modern vs. traditional battle is often in the modern worship style world there is a great emphasis on size and numbers. The bigger the better. The more campuses the better. The more popular the senior pastor the better. The larger the reach the better. The more trendy the better. The more albums the worship band releases the better. Bigger is better. The more the better. When you go to modern church seminars where the latest pastor/authors will grace you with their knowledge of staff management, church growth, and community outreach, the emphasis is on numbers, numbers, numbers.

Moving out of the megachurch model into a small, rural and tradition based Methodist church has made me realize that I cannot focus on numbers, numbers, numbers. What I must focus on is deepening people’s relationships with Jesus Christ. It is through awakening or reawakening a passion for Jesus and making church the central core of a person’s life and not just an add-on nice thing that we do that God will bless us with His growth of our church. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the depth and passion of the faith of the people that I have been entrusted.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read about David’s census. It was a vain act to bolster his ego, his view about success. He wanted the validation that the numbers gave him. With these things in mind, let us read the passage, 1 Chronicles 21:1-6, now:

Chapter 21

1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”

3 But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.

6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him.

In this passage, we must remember that God had called David to trust in Him, not in man, not in numbers. Often, we have a tendency to rely too much on numbers. We tend to think that something is good, or right or successful, based on how many people attended, or how many support a cause or view. Of this tendency we must be very careful. Is our power or rightness rooted in numbers, in popularity, in profit, or in God? David in counting his people is, it would seem, seeking confidence in his numbers, rather than God, and this is a sin. Also, he could well have considered with pride the fact that he had amassed a large number of people in uniting the Israel and Judah. Taking a census was a way of flattering himself, and to make a name for himself. The numbers ARE quite impressive. So impressive, in fact that we moderns doubt them: 800,000 men fit for military service in Israel, and 500,000 men in Judah. David was enthroned over a numerous nation and his census is a likely indication that he was quite proud of his accomplishment, and wanted that accomplishment recorded for history.

In our time today in 21st century Christianity, we can be like David very easily. We can see the numbers as a measure of success or failure. We can see popularity as a measure of success and failure just like in the secular world. As I mentioned before, we can fall prey to seeing the success of mega-sized churches, with their celebrity pastors, their rock star worship leaders, and so on. We can look at these things and say well I don’t have those things at my small church so I am not successful. However, numbers in and of themselves are not the measure of success. I had a pastor from the upstate once tell me that though he was a pastor of a large modern church he would rather have 200 people that were sold out for Jesus who were living it out every day rather than a 1,000 people who were lukewarm in their faith.

That’s the lesson that I take away from David’s sin here is that we can get all starry eyed at the success of others and wonder why we don’t have the numbers and see ourselves as a failure. What God would rather see is the quality of the faith of the people you shepherd. God has designed that I be at a smaller church and he doesn’t want me to get all wrapped up in numbers but He does want me to get wrapped up in stirring people to go deeper and deeper with Jesus in their lives. He does want me to get wrapped up in seeing people have daily driving passion for Jesus Christ. He does want me to get wrapped up in seeing people sharing their personal stories of faith within their spheres of influence. He does want me to get wrapped up in people being passionate about loving the world around them both individually and collectively as a church so that we have an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. He does want me to get wrapped up in people learning to live generous lives. He does want me to get wrapped up in people praising the Lord seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He does want me to get wrapped up in the quality of the faith of the people that I am here to lead. All the numbers stuff I need to leave to God and let Him worry about that stuff.

For the non-pastor, the lesson from David’s sin is that anything that we let get in the way of our relationship with Jesus is sinful. Whatever it is may not be inherently sinful in and of itself, but when we place priority on something other than God first in our lives, then, it becomes sinful. We as Christ followers must always seek to have God first in our lives and everything else second. We must be passionate about loving Jesus. When we do that, all the other stuff just seems less important and less a driving force in our lives. When we have God first in our lives, we have things in the right perspective. Just love God and everything else follows.

Amen and Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s