Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lies and Baptist Statistics

Here's one effect of our utter lack of meaningful church membership: The vast majority of Baptist statistics are so tainted as to hardly be useful.

Consider, for example, the beaten-to-death assertion that American Christians divorce at a higher rate than American lost people. Oh, really? But who are these "American Christians"? Are we talking about the people who actually have some involvement in the life of the church, or are we talking about those millions of people whose names are on church rolls but who give absolutely no visible evidence of being saved? I've only been in ministry twenty years, but my experience so far is that divorce among actual faithful attenders occurs far below the 50% mark, and still rocks and scandalizes the church.

One might argue that people with commitment issues—a group very likely to divorce—are likely to be highly overrepresented in the group of people who dally with a temporary church affiliation and then disappear. Yet this is hardly an indictment of marital fidelity among real Christians.

This oft-cited statistic soldiers on as a case study in the irrelevance and ineptitude of the gospel (or at least of the church, depending upon who is wielding it). The sad thing is that we do it to ourselves. Every person we leave on the rolls of the church who is completely out of touch with the ministry of the church—every one of them—is a false and damaging advertisement for the idea that Christianity is just another ineffective religion.

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