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Traps

shining dove with rays on a dark golden background

We were growing both in number of converts and, more importantly, in the depth of these new Believers. But we didn’t care one bit about the increasing numbers. Well, let me say it another way: we didn’t need the validation of the increasing numbers; our larger crowds in no way instilled in us any sense of pride. Yet over all these years I have seen this become a trap for various “church” groups.

Numbers can be a trap of pride, and can therefore influence the leaders to try to increase numbers, for the sake of increased numbers only. I fear this will be a growing problem in the future, because I know the heart of man: we like to feel successful – even in spiritual matters. And since we need validation to feed our pride, we measure our success by quantity instead of quality.

I have always said, give me ten men sold out to Jesus, and living with the power of the Holy Spirit, and I will take that over 1000 men who are just showing up, but have no real passion for Jesus. What a trap: counting Christians instead of weighing them – being focused on digits instead of disciples.

What misplaced focus and what silly pride.

More often than not this pride is really just a mask for our insecurity. If you need outside validation to make you feel successful – by the world’s standards – you have lost the way of the Spirit. Have you fallen victim to the trap of seeking things that are measurable in the short term, but are neither measurable nor memorable in the long term?

We, the Twelve, did not focus on activities or programs, and we certainly did not arrange our teaching to try to stir up the emotions of our listeners, with a plan to try to convert them in their heightened emotional state. I have already seen this trap playing out and I have no doubt Satan will use this tactic in the future.

Jesus warned about this ‘emotions trap’ in his parable of the four soils, as he described the second seed: “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.”

Feelings do not equal salvation. Yes, heightened emotions are almost always present when someone surrenders to Jesus. But true surrender evokes emotions deep from within, not a passing feel-good high. Surrender evokes emotions, but emotions do not equal surrender.

We were growing because the Holy Spirit was moving, plain and simple. Yes, we were lifting up Jesus, and teaching and sharing his good news of Kingdom-living, which is now available to all. But I have presented the gospel succinctly and powerfully many times, only to see glazed-over eyes in response. And yet I have fumbled through a disjointed gospel teaching, and seen hearts light up with Jesus’ Light.

So I take no pride in anything I do for the Lord. It is the Spirit who will move, not me. I try to keep my eyes on the narrative, not on the numbers.

Hmmm, “the narrative not the numbers.” I like that.  I must share this Holy Spirit clarity and creativity with John and Andrew and the others. They will like it and perhaps they will use it. (And if they give me the credit I’ll have to rebuke them!)

But we were indeed growing, and the Spirit was moving. It was a beautiful thing to see. What a joy to not be able to take any credit. And an even greater joy not to want to. How freeing it is to let go of the results, and watch the Spirit take over.

Do you want to harness the power of the Holy Spirit for the success of your ideas and programs, or are you seeking to be harnessed by the Holy Spirit as he leads with energy, clarity and creativity?

About the author

Sam Hunter

Sam Hunter is the host of South Carolina’s Christian radio talk show, 721 Live, which helps people to apply the Bible to their everyday lives. He has produced two DVD curriculum series: Contentment: The Path to Peace and Fear: Do you React in Fear or Respond in Faith? In addition to speaking to men’s groups weekly as the director of 721 Ministries, Sam is invited frequently to speak to groups at churches, retreats, high schools, and colleges.