Lots of people get really into the numbers in the Bible. 40 days. 12 disciples. 10 commandments. 4 horsemen. Variants on the number 6.
Entire books have been written about the numbers just in the books of Daniel and Revelation. In fact, we are often so obsessed with these numbers that we are actually afraid of them.
I once got a new license plate from the state of South Carolina. The tag read “G666” on it. Several youth in our church were freaked out by this.
Since I don’t feel like an anti-Christ or see any significant sign that I am one (although some might disagree), I pretty much chose to ignore this marking on my car. Others might not be so passive.
It seems that we live in a religious climate that is obsessed with signs related to numbers. This past weekend, I discovered a number that has huge spiritual significance.
9. Or, nine if you prefer to spell it out.
On Saturday, the fearless youth leaders at Augusta Heights Baptist took 9 students to Frankie’s Fun Park. Many churches would scoff at such a number for a youth event. Some would even question, “Why bother?” But for Augusta Heights, these 9 were a Godsend.
Our church hasn’t had many outings lately that involved 9 youth, particularly when the outing involved three visiting youth. Scoff if you like, but we were thrilled with our 9. It was an encouragement to the people of the church, particularly the older members who desperately want to see young faces. It was a spiritual “lift” to all of us that are hoping to have an impact on young lives.
So, what kind of impact can you have at Frankie’s Fun Park? This little 9-person band came back to the church talking about doing fundraisers so that they could take more trips. They were talking about how they could get involved with helping poor people in the community. They talked about ways to make church more fun and inviting for their friends.
Yes, a little fun and fellowship can go a long way.
Our culture as a whole is obsessed with numbers, and the church has allowed itself to fall under the “bigger is better” spell. In that environment, 9 may not seem like such a big deal. But the view from the Heights is a little different. 9 young people being impacted, getting excited, and thinking about what God can do through them is more than enough.
Mention any youth event or activity and the first question is, “How many?” People always follow up youth camps, mission trips or retreats by asking how many people were saved. If you say one, they often respond, “Well, that’s better than none!”
Is that the best we can do? Does God look at one changed life and just shrug it off with, “Well, that’s better than nothing”?
Jesus had as many one-on-one encounters as preaching sessions to mass audiences. Paul was run out of town just as often as he planted churches. The times when 3000 came to Christ were few and far between. We have many more examples of people being changed one at a time.
Maybe it’s time for us to be more concerned about impacting the people that God has put around us rather than worrying so much about how many showed up.
We cannot always change the number that we have. But we can be committed to offering ourselves to the people that are present, even when there are 9 or less. God cares just as much about the one as He does about the many.