Vol 10 No. 5 A Season of Stories and Numbers


Dear Friends,

This is the time of the year when we reflect on what God has done in our churches and faith communities.  It is a time fraught with dangers yet potentially rife with joy.  The dangers arise when we polarize around counting stuff and not taking seriously what’s important to one another and to God.  Let me unpack this.  There are those who love to tell stories of God’s presence amongst us in all his power and glory.  I never tire of that.  Our CBM Executive Director, Sam Chaise, reminded me at our last CBWC Board meeting that when we worked together at Kitsilano Community Church, I would say to him, “people never tire of a conversion story.”  I never tire but more importantly, neither does the person who has just come to Jesus and neither does the God who receives them.

Stories are important but part of our story of the faithfulness of God is how He remains constant and faithful in matters of money.  Discussions of money produce two extremes… a glazed over disinterest which dismisses money as unimportant (which is spiritually inadequate and profoundly immature), to the other extreme which says you can only measure the health of an organization by it’s bank balance.  We need both.  When someone tells me that money is not the bottom line or someone else says that money is not the issue; they both need each other’s council.  I prefer to remind us all that, like all God’s work, we should believe in what I call “people embedded numbers” (PEN for short…I even have pens made up like this… how embarrassing).  It works out something like this and it applies to church life, not-for-profits and raising money for a local or international missions trip.  If you’ve got a story about people, you should also be able to talk about the faithfulness of God in the world of numbers.  Whether it be keeping track of dollars or numbers of participants.  I am writing on this area in both popular and academic settings but more on this later.

So, we give thanks to God as we enter a New Year.  We are thankful for people coming to faith and growing in faith.  We are constantly affirming those whose gifts are administration, money and management and those whose gifts are evangelism, hospitality and pastoral care.  Bob Webber is working on some of the criteria we use for ministry assessment.  I’ve also done a Master’s thesis in the same area.  We hope to see some encouraging tools and the gifts of perceptivity in our constituency over the next two months.  All this being said, what do the scriptures have to say to us in these matters?

What is God really looking for?  

It’s a complicated answer.  These scriptures are a beginning and your own prayer and the discernment of friends in Christ will take the discernment process a little farther.

God is concerned that we have personal relationship with Him.   

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”  John 3:16-17 (The Message).

God is concerned that we imitate Jesus.  There are many ways of framing this but best to start with Christ’s description of Himself and His call.

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners”     Isaiah 61: 1 (NRSV)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   Luke 4: 18-21 (NRSV)


The Lord also wants from us to have a sense of mercy and justice.  Like all these themes this one is inescapable as well.

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”    Micah 6:8 (NRSV)


God also wants us to know that He takes an intimate and personal care for us as exemplified in this classic passage from Jeremiah… I’ve been reminded that this passage can be misused.  Think of yourself as Daniel, off by yourself reading this as a gift from God; or Mary, the mother of our Lord hearing these words as reassurance and comfort.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11


We must see the work of the Holy Spirit as the action of God as someone who surprises us and longs for us to see far past the limited criteria that hems our world into something smaller than it was meant to be.  I’m wondering if you might read this verse and promise with a sense of prayerful joy, almost a song or psalm.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9



In Christ,