I get really nervous when people start throwing around numbers.

“Our attendance was 602 last Sunday!”

“We baptized 17 people tonight!”

“We have had 296 conversions this weekend!”

“We just opened our sixth campus!”

American evangelicals often appeal to numbers as the measurement of success. Sure, numbers can be one of the ingredients of success; although, I am not sure we should use them as the sine qua non of success. Most evangelicals, and probably even most non-evangelicals, would disagree with the core tenets of Joel Osteen Ministries, and yet, he has the largest church in America.

43,000 people.

More people regularly attend Osteen’s church than live in Wylie, Texas.

Obviously Osteen is doing something right.

But how do we define “right?”

Is it his toothy-grin, southern charm, or feel-good prosperity gospel? I’m not sure; however, I am sure we should not be comfortable using numbers to measure the success of our gospel-saturated, Christ-centered, missionally-driven churches, if we are not, at the same time, willing to give Osteen that same opportunity.

So, the next time you want to use numbers alone as a measurement of success for your church or ministry…don’t.