They were angry. We’d come to train on disciple making, but something was wrong. I could see the hardness in their faces though we taught on things I knew they agreed with scripturally. What was going on? I soon realized my trainees had become offended by the survey taken a few months back. They didn’t like being asked to count the number of believers and report on progress in a numeric way. Why do we measure these things anyhow? It was important to explain the why behind the questions.
Assumptions can be harmful. The common belief among our trainees was that the numbers requested so we could raise money. We would report their numbers and get rich, not sharing those funds with them. I couldn’t blame them for feeling that way.
They’d seen that done before. It was not uncommon for an Indian leader to gather a crowd at a conference. They’d take a photo, then “claim” those people as their believers so they can give “proof” to potential donors of their ministry.
These trainees had been burned and were justifiably concerned.
Another issue was fear. Would they be scolded if their reports didn’t show the kind of exponential growth we were talking about in DMM training? Again, it was a valid concern. We didn’t want to give the impression that someone who saw greater fruit was more valuable than the one who hadn’t yet seen that kind of breakthrough.
So why count at all? If these concerns are valid, maybe its better not to track and report.
A few weeks ago, I asked ten different DMM trainers for their input. I posed the question, “Why should we take time to record and track the growth of new disciples and groups in a movement?” Hitting send, I waited a few days for their emails to come back. Not surprisingly, the answers were similar. A number of them mentioned the same scripture.
4 Reasons You Need to Track Growth and Record Numbers
1) We must be good shepherds.
Jesus told a parable in Luke fifteen about a shepherd who counts his sheep. Because he counted, he recognized one was missing. Many church planters and movement leaders aren’t very good shepherds. They don’t know what is happening with their people, who is there, and who is not. They have no idea who is sick and who is fruitful. This isn’t good leadership. We are accountable to God for those we are blessed to serve and lead. The least we can do is know how many there are and what is happening in that area.
2) We are spiritual fathers and mothers.
As physical parents and grandparents, we want the best for our children. When our children were young we regularly took out a ruler and measured how tall they now were. We’d place a mark on the wall and see if they had grown. This helped us know what was happening. Just looking at them didn’t tell us what the mark on the wall did.
We need to do the same with the groups in our movements. Wouldn’t you think it strange if a parent didn’t know how many children they had? Or if a grandparent had no idea how many kids his kids had?
3) Without accurate data, we cannot evaluate and learn.
As we make generational growth charts, count numbers, and look at streams in the movements we observe what is happening. We ask diagnostic questions to identify what might be blocking further growth. This information helps us recognize who the fruitful and faithful are, to see where apostolic anointing flows. We then can follow up on those people further, training them to grow even more.
4) Numbers help us praise God for what He has done. (Had you thought of this one?)
The fourth reason wasn’t mentioned by anyone I asked. Yet for me, it’s the most important reason. God gave the vision to multiply His Kingdom in your area. How will you know what God has done there? How can you rejoice if you don’t have an accurate understanding of what is and is not happening? When there is a breakthrough, you’ll be able to praise Him if you have accurate data.
In an international meeting a few years ago we gave our report. No one in the room expected to see the level of growth the chart based on our reported numbers displayed. As we projected it on the wall and explained what was reflected there, spontaneous praise broke out. Tears streamed down faces and some began to dance. God had worked and moved beyond what we knew! This worship was made possible because we’d done the hard work of tracking and reporting.
Next week we’ll discuss more how and what to keep track of.
Do you have any fears or hesitations about counting and reporting the number of disciples in your work?
If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.
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