In the article linked above, this reporter reports some of the practices Elevation Church and Pastor Steve Furtick uses to have very high annual baptism numbers.
Now, I am not in any position to determine the veracity of the resources this reporter used in writing his article. The one thing I do want to say has to do with some of the comments made as to why, if these indeed are the practices used to get people to come forward to be baptized, these practices are used.
What I gleaned from the comments is that these “volunteer plants” make it easier for others, who are unsure or see some other social obstacle that would deter them from being baptized, to come forward to be baptized. They say this practice helps remove these obstacles and barriers. So that’s a good thing because the higher the number, the better.
What I wonder is this: how does this mesh with how Jesus did things? Did Jesus go about trying to remove obstacles for people in order that it would be easier for them to come and follow Him? From how I read the Gospels, I see the exact opposite from Jesus.
Even though I have to believe Jesus wanted many to come to Him, He was more interested in them truly wanting to follow Him. In other words, He was more interested in those coming to Him having total commitment. To and for Him, having 11 (there were 12 in the group, but I’m leaving out Judas in that number of 11) totally sold-out, committed to the death followers was much, much better than having 100 lukewarm, only-committed-to-a-point followers.
For that reason, Jesus constantly put up obstacles that those who would follow needed to get past. He made outrageous statements that caused people to fall away, statements like, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” and “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Those are hard statements to hear.
I believe it is far too common in the American evangelical culture that numbers for the sake of having the highest number possible has caused leaders and churches to not focus on the two numbers about which I truly believe our Lord cares. The first number is the number of people drawn into the kingdom as fully committed (meaning willing to die if called to do so for our Lord) and dedicated citizens of it. The second number is directly tied to it – the number of people who are becoming disciples who reproduce disciples.
Consider what Jesus did with such a small group of His type of committed followers.
And that is where I choose to direct my focus, on the numbers about which my Lord truly cares.