Aren’t we all tired of churches that seem to care too much about numbers? We all know the ones. They always want to compare Sunday morning attendance figures with you. They structure their ministry goals like a corporation trying to boost third-quarter figures. Some of them seem willing to use any form of manipulation to coerce people into snap decisions just so that they can dunk them in the baptismal pool. It can be sickening.

But what if numbers are actually very important? Could I convince you that how many people gathered Sunday at your sanctuary should be a big deal? In fact, I would argue that the number of people who come to Christ and join your church should be of great concern. I believe you should care how many people are on your membership list — down to the very last one.

Three reasons why.

The Glory of God

In the Ten Commandments, God forbids making, serving, and worshipping idols because “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:3-5). Later in the same book, he reiterates his unwillingness to share his glory with other gods: “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exod. 34:14).  God’s plan, his purposes, and his work of salvation are all centered around bringing glory to his name through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As his people, we are to be filled with the same zealous desire for his name to be praised among all peoples and nations. The psalmist puts it this way: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Ps. 86:9). Nearly every epistle of the New Testament contains some sort of doxology shouting forth “to the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!” (1 Tim. 1:17). We live to see our saving King glorified by every man, woman, child, rock, tree, fox, and star. We want everything that has breath to praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6) we want the entire creation to burst forth with God’s glory (Isa. 55:12-13).

What does this have to do with numbers? Well, if we are truly jealous for God’s glory, then every person who chooses not to gather with God’s people to worship God is choosing to give glory to false gods. This should be unacceptable. Every empty seat in your sanctuary is another person who is choosing to give what belongs to God to something less than God. We should not be satisfied until every tongue in our city cries forth his glorious praise.

The salvation of man

Every face you see is the face of a man or woman in need of the cleansing power of Jesus. Every person walking the sidewalks, riding the subways, or shopping in the grocery is a person who was designed to worship and commune with God. Every single one of them is a sinner justly deserving God’s wrath and in need of a Savior. Every single one.

Our churches should care about the number of individuals who are being saved because we should care about every individual. Every person who finds forgiveness of sins at the cross is one more brother, one more sister, one more person who is no longer separated from God.

We cannot simply content ourselves, saying, “We won’t worry about the numbers. God will take care of the numbers.” It’s true, God will take care of the numbers. However, until every man and woman is saved from the wages of their sin, we should never be content. Our hearts should throb with the desire of our God who does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). This passion for the salvation of men was the fuel for Paul’s evangelistic mission: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14).

The health of the church

Your church should care about the number of members at the church—not so you can throw your ecclesiological heft around or so you can pat yourselves on the back. The number of members should matter because members are not just names on a page. They are the precious sheep of Jesus’s flock.  He is not willing to lose even one (John 10:27-30).

How many of our churches see people fall off the grid every year? We might be tempted to argue that 1 John 2:19 leaves us guiltless; perhaps they left because they weren’t truly believers. That is certainly possible in some cases. But I suspect something else might be afoot. Ask yourself: How hard is my church trying to make sure to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13)? Could it be that our churches are shirking their Spirit-empowered duty to be the means of perseverance for the saints?

Go hard after them

We’re all familiar with the story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 to seek out the one wandering sheep. In Matthew 18, Jesus uses this parable to illustrate the necessity of church discipline. Church discipline is all about the shepherd seeking out the one lost sheep. It’s an unwillingness of the church to say numbers don’t matter. We will chase every last sheep who wanders away from her Savior and into sin if it kills us!

Which of us wants to be the one to explain to the Good Shepherd why we allowed one of his to go astray, and we chose not to chase after that invaluable sheep? Numbers matter because we want to see every single one of our brothers and sisters persevere to the end. As a member of your church, you have a covenant responsibility to every name on that membership to be pursuing them in love. Your church should be about the numbers. Down to the very last sheep.