Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Numbers Game

July 7, 2016

Occasionally I wonder why certain writings are in the canon of Holy Scripture. I've been working through the prophets for my daily readings and this morning finished up Ezekiel, replete with his wheels within wheels, fantastic imagery, and towards the end, his lengthy description and measurement of the new temple complex. The latter goes on in great detail for eight boring (to me) chapters. Why is this there, and why is it considered Holy Scripture? Were I making the decision on what to include or leave out, these chapters would not have made the cut. And yet they're there.

One of the criticisms leveled against mega churches is that they are just playing a numbers game; the only thing that matters is filling the pews and the coffers. Some of the more well-known ministries certainly give that impression, but years ago, Bill Hybels from Willowcreek, one of the first megachurches, gave what I consider to be the definitive answer to that accusation. He said that every person who comes to the church is a person for whom Christ died, a person who matters to God. And if they matter to God, they should matter to us. He then drew a telling analogy. "Every church counts the offering. Why? Because it matters. So why wouldn't we count the people, who matter to God much more than the money?"

I'm not a numbers man. My math non-skills are legendary. As I read through the latter chapters of Ezekiel, the sheer volume of numbers in the measurement of the temple make my head ache. I don't get the importance Ezekiel and the church fathers attributed to them. But I know that numbers matter to God, so although they don't mean much to me, I trust that there is a reason. That goes for a lot of things in life. I only see part of the picture, and if I try to make sense of the whole by looking at the small part I see, I end up frustrated. But when I trust the entire picture to God who sees it all, I can play my small part with confidence and joy. And gratitude, which I have tonight for these humdrum chapters in Ezekiel that instruct me to trust in the wisdom of God.

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