Because of the profound misuse of big goals, statistics, maps and reports to gain donations, prestige, and approval of men, we want to elaborate on the use of these tools regarding what we think God loves and hates about counting in the kingdom of God.
It can be said: God loves the counting of his people and God hates the counting of his people. Counting itself is a spiritually neutral activity. But it is our heart towards counting that counts most.
Zúme’s data ambition
Zúme uses goals, statistics, maps and reports as an outflow of our desire to be found as faithful stewards by our King when he returns. (Matthew 25:14-30) We aspire to be like Jesus who was the most faithful steward of the Father’s mission ever. He regularly cited locations of ministry and locations where he needed to still bring the kingdom. (Mark 1:38) He trained his disciples how to enter cities, how to find persons of peace, and who should be prioritized in hearing the good news of the kingdom. (Luke 10:1-12)
Zúme aspires to use goals, statistics, maps and reports like the Good Shepherd, who knew he had 100 sheep and, by counting them, learned he was missing one. (Luke 15:1-7)
Goals, statistics, maps, and reports are built in an obedient act of planning our trust, not trusting our plans.
God’s heart regarding goals, statistics, maps and reports?
A quick survey of the Bible reveals a surprisingly large role counting, census, generation genealogies, and statistics play in the story of the Bible. Sometimes these census elements are commissioned by God, often they are just a blessed inclusion by the authors of the Bible, and at least once an unauthorized census brought God’s anger and discipline.
Here are just a few prominent census and growth reports in the Bible:
- Moses took census in obedience to God because every one of his people mattered. (Numbers 1-3)
- David took a census and brought down the wrath of God. (2 Samuel 24)
- Nehemiah counted the number of Israelites that returned to build the wall. (Nehemiah 7)
- Jesus appointed 12 by name (Luke 6:12-16), he sent out 72 specific disciples (Luke 10:1-12), and in Acts Judas’ replacement was selected from one who had been with Jesus from the beginning” (Acts 1:21-23).
- The first church in Jerusalem counted and recorded numbers of Jews coming to faith in Jesus. (Acts 2:41)
- Peter reports to the church surprising movements of the Spirit with Cornelius. (Acts 10)
- Paul reported to the churches in Antioch and Jerusalem who sent them the numbers of churches and Gentiles coming to the Lord. (Acts 14:27)
- Paul also kept close, prayerful attention on the health of churches he had planted by both sending people and writing letters (Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians ).
The most obvious negative census was done by David at the end of his life. It was common for kings to assess their strength by counting available fighting men. David was just assessing the strength of his throne the same way everyone else did it. But this displeased God greatly. Goals, statistics, maps and reports can be used to assess strength of our kingdoms just like David did, and just like all the nations around did, but they can deeply displease God and show that our faith and trust is not in him, but in other things. This is hubris. This shows we have taken possession in our hearts of God’s people and God’s kingdom, and are using them to make us feel strong.
God have mercy that the Zúme community would never stray into using goals, statistics, maps and reports for this purpose.
On the other hand, there are many uses of census and counting throughout the Bible that are done as humble obedience and as sincere, faithful stewardship and as good administration of God’s people. Moses and Nehemiah both record the use of census and counting to administer the inheritance of God’s people. Tracking the genealogy of Jesus through both parents plays a vital role in testifying to the fulfilled prophesies and identity of Jesus as son of David. Again, these are holy uses of census and counting.
Zúme goals, statistics, maps and reports aspire to faithfully serve God’s people, counting what can be counted, and always knowing we serve a kingdom of the redeemed that cannot be counted. (Rev. 7:9)
Principle: eyes to see
One key value we have in the way we are building our goals, statistics, maps and reports is to help the community have eyes to see where the kingdom isn’t. Training on this concept can be found in Zúme Training – Eyes to See Where the Kingdom Isn’t.
This concept helps us prioritize statistics and maps that show where the work still needs to be done. Instead of creating maps that show our highest successes and biggest numbers, we are favoring maps that show the “zeros” and un-started fields. We want information that is actionable.
This means we don’t overly provide numbers where there is high activity and God is bearing great fruit in the community, unless it is able to be clearly delivered as a celebration of God and his great work. Our public information is generally trying to help show where the kingdom isn’t, with the hope that with this information the Spirit would mobilize others to move into those dark places. Our heart is to see no place left.
Jesus had eyes to see where the kingdom wasn’t
Jesus came to declare that the Kingdom of God has come near and become accessible to man through himself. The power and beauty of this truth can be missed, if you don’t realize that there are many places where the kingdom of God isn’t near. These are places where the power and rule of God is not established in the lives of people.
What does it look like when the kingdom of God has come? When messengers from John the Baptist came to Jesus asking if he was the promised one bringing the promised kingdom, Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt. 11) His answer to them and to us is that the kingdom is coming where we hear and see the restoration of the least, last, and lost in the power of the Spirit.
Conversely, we can see where the kingdom isn’t, when we look for those places where the blind are still blind, the deaf are still deaf, the lame are still lame, leapers are still cast out and unclean, the dead are abandoned as dead, and all these poor do not have a word of good news offered to them. Jesus brought the kingdom to where the kingdom had not yet come and God’s will was not yet being done on earth as it was in heaven.
…and he trained his disciples to to the same. (Luke 10)
…and he trains us and calls us, his ambassadors, to take this message of reconciliation to the world even today. (2 Cor. 5:20) The message of reconciliation is that the kingdom of God has come near and is available to all men through Jesus Christ.
May every goal, statistic, map or report collected and provided by the Zúme community be for the blessing, health, encouragement and faithful stewardship of God’s people. May our goals always and only be submitted obedience to his kingdom and never a tower of Babel we construct for ourselves.