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Ministry themes such as “multiply” and the modern concepts of church growth have not always produced positive feelings from me or a burning passion deep down in my soul. Those things have more often produced feelings such as fear and anxiety.

If we listen to success gurus who constantly communicate that “bigger is better,” we can fall prey to church-growth formulas that produce only a semblance of success. I admit to having experienced that through the years as I co-planted two churches.

I am currently allowing God to heal my understanding and redefine success for me. He is replacing my distorted views of church growth and multiplication with an understanding of church health and true kingdom purpose. I am beginning to concentrate more on those values instead of giving in to the numbers game.

An interesting story about King David is related in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. David, incited by Satan, decided to take a census of the people of Israel, focusing particularly on men who were eligible for military service. His actions were a clear violation of the instructions in Exodus 30 regarding the census.

David wanted the security and power that numbers represented, but he forgot a very important principle: Israel belonged to God, not to him. David had no right to act independently and arrogantly in regard to the people of God.

His prideful disobedience came at a high cost for the nation of Israel; thousands of those David loved and served lost their lives. The loss would have been even greater had David not repented and pleaded for God’s mercy.

It is tempting for us as leaders to seek large numbers to satisfy our own needs for self-worth and accomplishment. And it is sobering to realize that people in our care may be damaged by our choices that are based on insecurity or pride. But as we turn from those behaviors and endeavor to honor God and follow His directives, He will show us mercy just as He showed mercy to David and to Israel.

The Bible states, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (1 Pet. 5:2, NIV). I am resolved that, from now on, I will approach ministry with the understanding that I have been appointed by God to serve His people. I will do my best to seek His will and follow His instructions instead of relying on what “experts” recommend. As I do so, I know that God will cause His people and His kingdom to grow and multiply according to His plans, ways and principles.

By: Gretchen Abney, co-pastor of Refuge West (Marietta Refuge Foursquare Church) in Marietta, Ga.

is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Orlando, Fla.