Thursday, July 30, 2009

On numbers

I do not get the argument often made in churches that huge numbers and drawing lots of people and new members is proof positive that you are Doing It Right.

Exhibit A: Reverend Ike who preached "a message that challenged traditional Christian messages about finding salvation through love and the intercession of the divine. The way to prosper and be well, Reverend Ike preached, was to forget about pie in the sky by and by and to look instead within oneself for divine power."

“This is the do-it-yourself church,” he proclaimed. “The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”

"At the height of his success, in the 1970s, he reached an audience estimated at 2.5 million."

So...are we all agreed that since his theology draws a huge audience his theology is correct? I didn't think so.

God knows (and I hope you know) that I'm not saying numbers aren't worth anything. Like the Count, I love to count things.

The thing is that numbers are no objective measure of intrinsic worth. It is, for example, a foolish argument (at least I would say it's a foolish argument) to say that "More people today listen to Britney Spears than Ella Fitzgerald; therefore, Britney Spears is a better singer than Ella Fitzgerald." Or that Chanticleer is a terrible group because it doesn't bring in as many people as U2.

I wish people in churches would quit using the argument that when churches lose members there is something objectively disordered about them. Numbers are a clue that something is going on, but conclusions as to what that thing is need to analyzed with care.

1 comment:

qoe said...

Yes, and the statistics that show increasing numbers of facilitators and participants in 12-step are ADDICTED to THE PROGRAM.

Increasing numbers of homeless and hungry... More war-torn hotspots, worldwide... definitely not a success story...