As a retired pastor, this chapter's material hits home. The institution of the church is forever worried about numbers. When they are up they tend to be seen as a sign of God's favor. When they are down, as evidence of the faithful remnant. It is a perennial quandary.
I have heard (and probably even said it myself at times) "it's not how many you are reaching but how much those whom you reach are growing." And yet that is usually at a time when the numbers seem to be down. And so Tozer's The Size of the Soul" chapter 26 goes...It is an interesting issue for congregations to consider. We all long for "those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." kinds of ministry, when a mighty work of the Spirit is evident. And yet we also see the value in a more realistic "each one reach one" evangelistic approach.
In the news today is word of a pastor arrested in the Detroit (USA) airport for having urinated on a passenger. Just let that sink in. The pastor of a large and well-known church in the Raleigh-Durham (USA) area is arrested in Detroit for urinating on an airline passenger, initially denying the accusation (lying), later admitting to having taken a few drinks (alcohol)...
I'm sure the stage shows referred to as worship at that pastor's church, the bible studies and exercise classes held for the strengthening of the body, mind, and spirit, the baptisms and other ministries were done seemingly with reasonably good intentions. But where sin abides, where ground is given over to compromise and "don't worry God forgives all our sins" takes precedent over the tear stained clothing of repentance, numbers are less significant.
Of course we do see evidence of church growth throughout the world and that is exciting. It seems to grow most especially amongst the downtrodden, the oppressed, the hurting. I believe that is where the Lord works in a most notable way. It is out of the dust of the earth that creation takes place. It is inthe Valley of Dry Bones, that change is evident. It is out of the confusion of disaster that His relief comes. It is in the recognition of our personal inadequacies, that God can and will move in our lives. And so: