Have you ever been tempted to measure the impact of a church in algorithmic terms, perhaps with variables for number of congregants, size of Sunday School, and so forth? I know I have. In a society of billion-member social networks, where value is often assigned by quantifying followers and likes, perhaps we can understand the desire to validate the worth of a church through such a formula.
By this logic, a church service attended by 27 people might have 42 percent more impact on the community than a church service attended by 19 people. The algorithm would likewise conclude that the gatherings of early Christians held in homes had only about 1 percent of the impact of today’s megachurches that can host 5,000 congregants at a single service.
Instinctively, we rebel against such shallow analysis. Yet what would we think about a church service attended by only one person? If we’re using our algorithm, not much. But what if that one attendee happened to be your mom, your sister, your child—and one thing she heard in that hour transformed her thought and led to healing? What if that single healing experience so stirred this individual that she was inspired to help others find new hope and healing in their own lives? Now how would we measure the impact of that church service?