The Pterois That Infects Us All

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. Among the victims was the owner of a waterfront exotic fish aquarium. The man loved his fish and, not wanting to see them perish, released them into Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

Sounds reasonable and humane, right?

However, among the fish he set free were six carnivorous Pterois native to Indo-Pacific waters, better known as Lionfish. These six fish multiplied at an enormous rate. As a result, there are now millions of Lionfish spread from Bermuda to North Carolina across the Caribbean and hundreds of miles up the Amazon River. These carnivorous fish are wreaking havoc on native populations of fish such as snapper and grouper, eating their young before they have the chance to mature. Unless something happens, certain Atlantic based species of fish may become extinct.


Here are some facts about Lionfish:

  • Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
  • Adult Lionfish have 18 poisonous spines.
  • Female Lionfish produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days.
  • Lionfish are sexually mature in one year.

Who would have thought releasing six fish would have such a devastating impact on the waters surrounding two continents?

As I pondered these facts this past week, I realized that there is another Lionfish with another name in the church, in politics, and in society today. The name of this Lionfish is gossip.

Gossip is something that cannot be contained once it is released. It often does it’s damage and then continues to spread until people grow bored with it, despite the facts.

Here’s one example:

One year before Hurricane Andrew prompted the exotic fish tank owner to dump his Pterois into Biscayne Bay, a rumor surfaced that Tropical Fantasy Soda Pop was actually manufactured by the Ku-Klux-Klan and contained a unique formula which caused sterility among African-American men. Sales dropped 70%. Even though the rumor was discounted, sales never fully recovered and smaller rumors continue to this day.


Here are some facts about gossip:

  • As long as there have been people, there has been gossip.
  • Percentage wise, men gossip almost as much as women. They just call it marketing.
  • People often begin false rumors about themselves. Oscar Wilde once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

A pastor I know once said that spreading gossip is like cutting the paper from a notebook into tiny pieces and setting them out for the wind to blow them where they may. No matter how much you try, you’re very unlikely to regather all of the pieces.


How do we stop gossip? It’s doubtful gossip will ever fully be stopped this side of Judgement Day, but here are some steps we can take to remove it (or at least reduce it) in our own lives:


  • If possible, don’t be an audience for gossip.
  • Make the rumor stop with you.
  • Share positive information.
  • Pray for yourself and the victim of the gossip.

The Apostle Paul wrote the following advice in Ephesians 4:29:

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

I’ve read that the suggested way many governments are requesting fisherman to deal with Lionfish in the Atlantic is by removing them one at a time. Perhaps this is the best way to deal with rumors and gossip as well.

It’s time for us all to spread good news and speak life to those around us. The world needs our encouragement much more than it needs the Lionfish of gossip.

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Why Pastors Should Keep Track of Weekend Worship Service Attendances*


I recently joined a discussion with a few pastors about the importance of tracking weekend worship service attendance.

In our conversation, it seemed everyone agreed that weekend attendance:

  • Is the most obvious measure of success.
  • Is fairly easy to track.
  • Is easily understood by most church leaders.

However, as we were about to move to another topic, one pastor, who may have been playing Devil’s advocate, asked the following question:

How can we justify counting people in our worship services when King David got into so much trouble with the Lord when he conducted a census?  

He was referring to a story in 2 Samuel 24. The scripture indicates that the Lord was angry with Israel and caused the king to want to count the people of Israel and Judah. The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21 actually reports that it was Satan who caused David to take a census. However it took place, it’s possible that David’s sin was not the counting, but pride associated with the numbers. Joab even tried to stop David from ordering the census, saying:

May the Lord your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now!  But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?  2 Samuel 24:3 NLT

After reading both accounts, it seems that King David might have been:

  • Putting his trust in the numbers of his people rather than in the Lord.
  • Taking his eyes off of the Lord when earthly success seemed evident to all.
  • Stealing the glory of what the Lord had reserved for himself.

Whatever the reason, before the Lord’s punishment of David for the census was completed, a 3 day plague swept through Israel killing 70,000 people. (One could easily wonder how they knew the number of people who perished without enduring more punishment for counting). I’ve made lots of mistakes about lots of things in church work, but never anything that’s caused even one death (that I know of), much less 70,000.

So is it wrong to keep track of your worship service attendances?

Interestingly enough, until that pastor asked that question, I had never compared knowing the attendance in a worship service with King David taking a census of Israel. It could be because many of the churches I attended while growing up posted the weekend attendance in the worship center for everyone to see. Another reason may be because the Bible is filled with examples of people counting.


Here are a few examples:

  • The total number of Jacob’s descendants moving to Egypt was 70 (Exodus 1:5).
  • The Levites killed about 3,000 of the Israelite brothers after the incident with the golden calf(Exodus 32:28).
  • On the day the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, about 40,000 were equipped for war and crossed to the plains of Jericho (Joshua 4:13).
  • The 4th book of the Bible is Numbers.
  • The Lord limited Gideon’s Army to 300 when he attacked the Midianite camp  (Judges 7:1-8).
  • Solomon accumulated 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen (1 Kings 10:26).
  • Jesus broke bread and fed 5,000 men plus women and children (Mark 6:44) and then later fed about 4,000 men plus women and children (Mark 8:8).
  • On the day of Pentecost, 3000 were added to the number of believers in one day (Acts 2:41).

How did Jacob know he had 70 family members with him when he moved to Egypt? You can bet with a family that large they stopped to count everyone before journeying forward each day.

How did Gideon know the Lord had left him with only 300 men to help in attacking the Midianite camp? Someone must have counted.

How did Jesus and the disciples know that there were 5,000 men present when Jesus broke the bread and fish? One of the disciples must have counted. They would want to know because that’s a whole lot of people to serve even if the food is being miraculously multiplied.

Still not convinced?

I asked my social media friends why it would be important to count worship service attendees each week. Here are a few answers I received.

Counting your weekly attendance helps you celebrate what the Lord has done and also helps keep you accountable for pastoring the people with whom God has blessed you.

– You count your offering, right? Why wouldn’t you be as faithful with the people resources God has entrusted you with?

– Tracking and then studying the numbers can help you spot trends and know your congregation…  It can also help you see decline before it is full-blown. Numbers in organizations are like numbers on a growth chart for a child in development. They’re indicators of what’s working and what isn’t.

It can be used for message traction. One church I was in before learned that too much effort went into teaching series openers. There was a large (15%) spike in attendance for the first message compared to the others. It helped us re-tool how the series were put together.

– I’m responsible for the team setting up for communion each month and let me tell you, counting is important. Our church attendance kept rising, but no one ever told me so I didn’t buy enough supplies. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have to tell congregation members they can’t participate in the Lord’s Supper because you’ve run out of juice?

– Being able to look at trends and seeing low attendance periods helps church leadership know when they need to step up marketing, promotions, etc…  It also helps to know that sometimes a slump is just prime vacation time.

While being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses to the benefits of tracking attendance, I must say that keeping track of worship service attendance numbers is not only beneficial, but is an absolute must for any pastor desiring to serve and lead in a thriving, healthy ministry.

All this being said, here are some practical steps to remember when keeping track of attendance:

1.  Tell the truth. If all of your attendance numbers begin with the phrase Evangelistically speaking we had… something needs to change. Lying about your attendance is like cheating on your eye exam. You’re only hurting yourself.

2.  Count in the second half of the service. It’s my experience that the number of people you have in the building at the beginning of your service is no indication of how will be there by the end of the service. (This is a different problem for a different article). For accuracy, have someone count in the second half of the sermon. People are normally seated during this time and they’re easier to count anyway.

3.  Create an easily accessible graph for your own reference. Doing so will allow you to compare attendances quickly and efficiently.

4.  Compare attendances from season to season, year to year, and finally Sunday to Sunday. Consider the why’s regarding your trends.


Willie Nelson once said When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. It’s uncertain if keeping track of your ongoing weekend church attendance will turn your life around. However, it is certain that those you are counting are God’s blessings for you to evangelize, disciple, and lead.

Happy counting!  


The Culprit In The Sanctuary


“There must be a culprit in the sanctuary,” I thought.

The video equipment had been set up and taken down by the same faithful volunteers for close to a year and a half without any problem. Now, each week, throughout the service, the video system would suddenly lose connection for a second or two and then return to normal. It started happening once every five minutes or so, then the problem grew steadily worse.

Pastors, leaders, technicians, and volunteers were all baffled over the situation. Over the course of several weeks, different teams tried updating the presentation system, double checking the connections, updating the computer, using different computers, checking the multiple adapters, replacing a converter, checking the temperature of the equipment, and checking the stress on the cabling, all to no avail.

In the end, I wondered, “Could someone be sabotaging the system?”

Finally, the entire system was setup during the week by a small group, determined to double check every connection until the issue was discovered. However, when everything was setup, the problem could not be reproduced.

Fortunately, one of the team members received a text message, and the problem occurred. Testing a theory, he sent a text message, and the disconnect happened again. Then, the technicians realized that a phone could simply be placed near certain connection points and the glitch would occur. The team found a thicker, more insulated cable and retested the system, placing cell phones over the cables and sending text messages back and forth.

No glitch.

The culprit in the sanctuary had been found. Unseen frequencies, which had previously not been released for cell phone use, had been steadily increasing in the room as people had updated their phones, thereby causing problems in the wired video equipment.

Crazy, right?

Thank the Lord we were able to purchase higher grade, better insulated cables. We would have hated to make everyone check their cell phone at the door.

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