What should one do when they hear a report of thousands of people trusting Christ on a short-term missions trip? We love numbers. They encourage us. They show progress. But do the accurately portray what is happening around the world?
Every summer a church from the United States sends out a team to do evangelism in the same area of Tanzania. Every summer they come back with almost the same testimony - 5,000-10,000 people have come to Christ. This has been happening for a number of years.
But if you asked them about the churches, they would have a hard time identifying very many. And here is really the crux of the matter. So if you hear of 50,000 people that have come to Christ and there are very few churches, there are probably very few conversions happening.
If you talk to missionaries on the field, they will tell you that if Muslim evangelists came through the same village the week after the Americans, the same people would raise their hands to convert to Islam.
Numbers don't always accurately portray reality and when we inflate numbers we misrepresent what God truly is doing in the world.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.