Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Southern Baptists and Numbers

Let’s be honest, most SBCers never met a number they couldn’t inflate. So, I congratulate our top two entities, the International and North American Mission Boards for declaring that they will practice more realism in their reporting. Baptist Press reports:

Clyde Meador, IMB VP:
“…clarified changes in how statistics are reported, noting that the work relating to work with which IMB personnel have direct involvement is tabulated apart from statistics relating to Baptist conventions and unions overseas. New IMB categories have been added to document the number of gospel presentations, challenges to make commitments and professions of faith.”

"This doesn't mean we're devaluating baptisms, but we understand better the kind of interactions our people are having," Meador explained.

Even with the new approach, Meador said the number of baptisms stemming from IMB-related work remained strong at 360,000 and the number of new churches started was even greater than the previous year.
The IMB has been criticized for lumping statistics of all the groups that our overseas people relate to. The resulting numbers are, well, fuzzy.

Memo to IMB: I know you have many people in difficult places. My support of your work doesn’t depend on your knocking my socks off with statistics.

NAMB’s new leader, Kevin Ezell’s approach to reporting church starts was summarized by Baptist Press thusly:

While church planters can expect a faster track to start new work, Ezell also promised greater accountability, making sure all of the partners are "using the same dictionary" when defining what constitutes a church, a church plant and a missionary.
To be blunt, no one really can tell what NAMB has been doing. I commend him for paying attention to reality and not having a goal of spiffy stats rather than honest church starts.

One caveat here is this: The SBC seems destined to be ruled by megachurch pastors, folks who know something about numbers and who understand the value of looking good on paper. I trust that they will respect the folks who pay all these bills, ordinary SBCers like me, by being honest in their reporting.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Over the past 11 years, I've spent a great deal of time with IMB personnel in nations hostile to the Gospel and it wouldn't surprise me to find that I have more boots on the ground time with these folks than most elected IMB officials or trustees.

These IMB folks are the hardest working, most committed believers I've ever known...time with them makes me feel like a horrible (yet grateful) wretch. And all of them express to me, in private (of course), how ridiculous the stats are, both in how they're obtained and how they're presented to the folks in the pew.

Now I read that the IMB is going to start gathering data points like "number of gospel presentations, challenges to make commitments and professions of faith."

Really? This sounds like the Vietnam era body count numbers that the Pentagon used to publicize to show how well our forces were doing.

Now, those hard working "units" are going to have to submit reports with numbers in boxes to make a VP in Richmond happy.

The folks on the field are already aware of just how little their views matter. This will just make matters worse.