Statistics are helpful; but certain intangibles are best

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DULUTH – Statistics do not always tell the whole story, but people generally like statistics and lists. There are baseball fanatics who can tell you the batting averages of the players on the 1952 New York Yankees World Series Championship team.

Others could tell you the dates that the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached the 1,000-level, the 10,000-level, the 20,000-level, and yes, the 25,000-level.

Yet, others would be knowledgeable about political statistics like the number of presidents who won the Electoral College vote without winning the majority vote in national elections. They would also likely know how many individuals each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the percentage by which they were elected.

For many years Baptists were proud of the statistical information provided by the Annual Church Profile/Report. One pastor’s wife commented that her husband was so enamored with statistics that on Monday morning he was desperate to know how many were in worship, the Sunday School attendance, and how much was given in the offering. She said his interest in that kind of statistical information even carried over into sports and that when he went to an Atlanta Braves game or a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets game he was typically more interested in the attendance than the score.

How statistics are reported is also important. I understand that years ago in a track meet there were two participants in the one hundred meter dash and the American athlete outran his Russian opponent by several meters. The New York Times reported that the American runner came in first and the Russian was dead last. The Moscow Times reported, “In the 100-meters race the Russian came in second and the American was next to last.”

Andrew Lang said, “Some people use statistics like a drunken man uses a lamp post – for support rather than for illumination.” Statistical information is important to many people; and there is much we can learn from statistics.

The Christian Index would like to share some statistics that will suffice both for support and information.

Every month William Towns sends out a report on what the churches of the various state conventions contribute to the national convention. In December, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board forwarded $1,458,198.94 in Cooperative Program gifts to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to be distributed to the various institutions and agencies of the denomination.

The aforementioned amount led all state conventions in gifts to the national convention in December. The next four leading state conventions were Alabama (2), Tennessee (3), Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (4), and Florida Baptist Convention (5).

It should also be noted that from October 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017 Georgia Baptists gave more to each of the following offerings than any other state convention: the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and “other” designated offerings.

There are 42 state conventions (some states are combined like Kansas and Nebraska), yet in December the Georgia Baptist Mission Board gave almost 9.4 percent of all the Cooperative Program money received at the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville. 

It should also be noted that Georgia Baptists account for over 9.3 percent of the membership of the SBC and that Georgia Baptists were responsible for almost one-tenth of all those who were baptized in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This statistical information is not given for the purpose of boasting of our accomplishments, because we could all be doing far more for Christ. However, these numbers do portray that the work of our churches is extremely significant. And, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board leadership, namely Executive Director J. Robert White, is fully aware that the degree of our synergy provides the measure of our success and that all praise goes to the Father in heaven.

Statistics are important measuring rods in this technical and scientific age. We need to know where we have been in order to chart a course for the future. However, the most important things in life cannot be measured by statistics.

Perhaps the intangible aspects of ministry are the most important. Who can measure a compassionate witness or a testimony given in the right spirit and the right temperament? Who can calculate the worth of a cup of cold water (or hot chocolate) given in Jesus’ name? Who can define beauty and friendship? Who can gauge the value of a Christian life well lived?

Let us make sure that our statistics are motivated by a passion to serve the risen Christ and honor Him.

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