Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Henry Nouwen on Numbers

"God rejoices when one repentant sinner returns. Statistically that is not very interesting. But for God, numbers never seem to matter. Who knows whether the world is kept from destruction because of one, two or three people who have continued to pray when the rest of humanity has lost hope and dissipated itself?

From God's perspective, one hidden act of repentance, one little gesture of selfless love, one moment of true forgiveness is all that is needed to bring God from his throne to run to his returning son and to fill the heavens with sounds of divine joy." from The Return of the Prodigal Son

I hate the numbers question. It is inevitably one of the first questions people ask when they find out I work as the director of a student ministry: "How many kids do you have?"

I always take this as a way for someone to size me up, see how good a youthworker I really am. They probably are just being curious and kind but it still stinks that it's at the top of the list of questions.

I'm always tempted to answer with sarcasm & snark. "We mail our newsletter to over 300, we have small groups with around 50, we do service projects where only 1 or 2 kids shows up. Pick whatever number makes you feel good."

Measuring is important. Numbers represent real people. However, Nouwen points out that it is the small, the seemingly insignificant and the immeasurable that is most significant. Good reminder that Kingdom advance incremental and sometimes almost imperceptible.

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