Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Evangelicals Behaving Badly

My friend, Christian Smith, has finally published what he and I have talked about on occasion. The misuse of stats by evangelicals -- particularly those involved in youth ministry -- is appalling and needs to be called what it is: devious and deceptive.


Anonymous Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Great link. Thanks!

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am to the point that even when i see the name barna or a poll statistic coming my way, i skip the paragraph.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


have you ever done a minneapolis study to determine what the actual local teenage population is and what the best estimated teenage population is in churches there?

We did that here by calling every single church and every single school and interestingly the actual data was very close to what is being predicted. we found 5% of teenagers were part of any church - and of course that doesn't mean there aren't christians that don't go to a church, but with youth the actual data we found was around 5%. the leader of intervarsity at the college campus is guessing 2% up there (that was his guess, not a study).

but playing that out a generation or three, and it seems to be those stats could be accurate at least here locally after doing a specific study.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous carla jo said...

Statistics in general seem to be helpful for building business models, but not much else. I suppose having some numbers to toss around helps churches feel like they're meeting some kind of unmet need, but really, does it matter what percentage of a city is "unchurched"? Does it matter how many evangelicals voted for democrats? Does it matter how many teenagers raised in the church no longer hold any kind of faith? Isn't our calling to live into the kingdom of God in all times and in all places? If some study shows that the entire state of Minnesota is Christian, should we move?

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Mike King said...

Hey Tony,

Someone has to deal with Ron Luce's campaign. Statistics used to produce fear raises money - sad to say. I made some comments about Smith's article here http://king.typepad.com/mike_king/2007/01/all_youth_worke.html

Peace my friend,


8:30 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

carla, i think that Paul focuses his missionary efforts in specific cities and although he livd out the gospel whereever he went, there was intention and thought about where he travelled to and why he chose those places. the letters were written to strategic churches in major cities and although there were no statistics, God seemed to not randomly send out people haphazardly - same with looking at when we say there is "fruit" that the Spirit produces, it was not numbers or statisitics but traits and ways of life, yet it is measurable to some degree. Jesus gave the example of knowing if one sheep goes astray of the 100, so i think it is more than just living things out, but having some strategy of where, why, to whom etc. which seems like what we see in the entire Missio Dei of the whole Bible. i think we could make a case that Jesus did the same thing......that is my thoughts and opinions... we see Jesus saying be fishers of people, and that metaphor lends itself and what jesus did later, is to see fish in the nets - so in fishing back at that time, there was a developed startegy of how a Gallilee fisherman would use certain nets for certain types of fish, had to travel to certain parts of the lake during certain times of the year etc. (i went to a fishing musuem on the sea of galillee and they explained all this).....anyway, i hate the format of blogs for expressing things like this.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

carla --

also, i was asking Tony that question because he just did a pretty extensive survey of our church to produce statistics and 4 others churches too. so statistics do have reasons for taking them which can be helpful, and i was wondering if Tony has taken that type of surveying and coming up with statistics further to those outside the church. i know statistics alone aren't a determining factor, as also there is a need for focus groups and actual conversations. but i assume Tony validates statistics by the extensive nature of what he gave our church which included age, faith background or whether someone is a Christian or not, if the attended other churches or just ours, why they come to the church etc.

I find them very helpful and insightful for ministry and the mission - and revealing to see what is really happening so we aren't just assuming things.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous cj said...


All fine points. And I didn't mean any disrespect to you or to other groups. I'm responding more to the implications of Tony's post--that we tend to misuse stats and that in doing so, we may be missing the situations that are right in front of us. And while I understand what you're saying about focused ministry, I also believe, and I'd guess you do too, that Christians in other parts of the world, places that don't have statistics and researchers and George Barna, are still able to live out their faith in ways that impact their communities. Marketing models are handy, but they are no match for authentic communities of faith living as blessings to the world.

8:24 PM  
Blogger landonsandy said...

great link

7:31 PM  

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