The only thing that really
matters is butts in seats.
For the American church, that is the bottom line. So to speak.
Large churches keep score by attendance figures. Small and medium
churches fret over declining numbers in the pews. Often, when
leaders talk about outreach and evangelism, they really mean
convincing people to sit in a pew for an hour on Sunday
Crowds coming together to hear people talk and sing about God
can be a good thing. But that shouldn’t be the end game.
As the church-the Body of Christ-we’re here to love God and love
others. The true bottom line is not about bottoms. It’s about
hearts and souls. One by one.
I’m convinced the American church will not thrive-by any
measure-until its leaders and members lose this fleshy fixation on
the numerical size of the Sunday morning flock and begin pursuing
that one lost sheep, and the individuals’ individual relationship
with Jesus and other people.
A couple in my town have shepherded an effort to do just that in
an interesting way. After Dennis and Barbara Miller started a
Lifetree Cafe outreach in a local hotel, the director of a homeless
day shelter asked if they’d consider setting up a Lifetree Cafe in the
The Millers jumped at the opportunity. Now, every week they
provide Lifetree’s “hour of stories and conversation to feed the
soul” to the community’s homeless. And the homeless are responding,
engaging in the conversations, and basking in God’s love. “They’re
hungry,” Barbara said. “They want to know about the Lord.”
But the Millers said their new homeless friends do not feel
comfortable going to a church. “They’re smelly. They’re dirty.
They’re unshaven,” Barbara said. The Millers have no allusion that
these people will ever occupy a pew at their church, or become a
But that’s not the bottom line for the Millers. They and their
enthusiastic volunteers are rediscovering what it means to be the