You’ve probably heard Pastor Mark say that we’re a kite in a hurricane of God’s grace. He’s not joking.
This month, we were excited to see Outreach magazine rank Mars Hill in the no. 3 spot on the list of fastest-growing churches in the country, while also naming us the 28th-largest one. The 2012 Outreach 100 special report, the magazine’s annual ranking of the largest and fastest growing churches in the U.S., recorded our attendance as having gone up by 3,530 in the last 12 months to over 13,100 people, a 37% growth over the previous year when we were 43rd in both categories. With 14 locations, we were also listed as the church with the most locations in the country. That’s one big, distributed family, Mars Hill.
What the numbers mean
It’s easy for me to get caught up in seeing these numbers and forget that thousands of people are behind every number, each with their own story. Numbers represent people and God working in each of their lives. The book of Acts tells the story of the early church and you can find numbers all throughout it (Acts 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 11:41, 47). Why? Numbers matter to God because every person matters deeply to him, and heaven rejoices when just one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). So it’s not about the numbers themselves, but in the repentance and salvation of those counted. And we will always celebrate that.
What the numbers don’t mean
Numbers do not mean that God loves Mars Hill more than any other church or that we know how to do everything perfectly or flawlessly. We have no right to boast. We share these numbers to say, “Look what God is doing,” not, “Look what we have done.” It is by God’s grace alone that our church has grown, because Jesus knows we’ve had our fair share of failures and still have much to learn and grow in.
One last thing
The Outreach issue also included a small feature on Pastor Mark’s Sunday routine, asking him what are the hardest and most important things he does on a Sunday. As someone who’s with him on many of these early mornings, I can tell you that ministry is tough and your pastor loves Jesus and loves you a lot and would have quit long ago if he didn’t. Please continue to pray for strength, wisdom, and guidance from the Holy Spirit for Pastor Mark and your pastors at Mars Hill.