What a Kroc!

I break my blogging silence only because I have found a piece of newsworthy information that I bet few other people would ever come across. If you are a religious statistic enthusiast...um, let me be more realistic. Almost none of you are religious statistic enthusiasts. BUT, chances are 9 out of 10 that you have seen or heard religious statistics used in a discussion, a sermon, a classroom or maybe scratched into a public bathroom wall. I'm skeptical of 93.6% of all statistics I hear. It is not that I mistrust the statisticians. It is that I mistrust most people's interpretation of findings. Using a statistic in a quote generally leaves out all the *'s and †'s and other marks of exceptions, conditions, and caveats that accompany complete and well documented statistics.

FOR EXAMPLE
The ARDA's 2010 data for Kootenai County is available on their website. I've poured over the 2000 data for a few years, so I was very interested to finally see the changes for 2010. There's plenty I find remarkable about the data (like, 71.3 out of every 1000 people in our county attend Real Life Ministries in Post Falls). One number caught me completely off guard. I was reading down the list of denominations trying to guess the numbers that would follow when I came to Salvation Army.

Denomination: Salvation Army
Tradition: Evangelical Protestant      
Family: Holiness
Number of Congregations:  1

This much, I knew. The Salvation Army received a grant from the Kroc Foundation (McDonald's) and other government and non-government organizations to build the most awesome community center a non-metropolitan area has ever seen. We're talking fitness gym, water park, playgrounds, recording studios, everything. It is called the Kroc Center. It just so happens to house the local Salvation Army Church called "Kroc Church." It is the number that came next that blew me away.

Number of adherents: 18,269!

Really? They just opened the place about three or four years ago. Their auditorium seats maybe 200 people. I'm pretty sure they only have one Sunday morning service. Are there 91 other services I haven't heard about? Clearly, when asked to report their "membership" the Kroc Church reported everyone who was a member of the Kroc Center. This is a paid membership, like a gym membership that community members use to access the services of the Kroc. I'm sure this number is even bigger since 2010 as they've had to build a huge parking garage to keep up with demand.

Anyway, this just goes to show that the numbers never tell the whole story. They don't even always tell an accurate story. If we took this one number at face value then the Kroc Church would be the fastest growing church in America. These numbers "prove" that 131.9 of every 1000 people in our county go to a Salvation Army Church. It could also make us think that 57.74% of people go to church. Actually, without counting that one church it would be more like 44%. Then you have the reported 8,000 Mormons and over 7,000 Catholics. Without them we have 33% of the population going to church. In my intolerance there's another 3% of the remaining churches who are not considered Evangelical. So we are looking at 30% of the population of our county attending a church that's somewhere in the ballpark of being what I consider biblically Christian. Getting into the details we could argue about which churches should and should not be included, but they don't make a big difference compared to the numbers I've mentioned.

I'm also really curious about the 21,009 adherents claimed by the 23 non-denominational churches of our county. I'm pretty sure the average size of non-denominational churches here isn't 913. There are very few churches here that can hold that many. I could be wrong, but I feel like there is a major fault with the reporting on this number. That could drastically change the percentages by up to 15%!

The moral of the story is, don't put a lot of emphasis on statistics. If you want to know if you are successful in ministry, ask Jesus. He's the one who's opinion matters, and He has more control over the numbers than we ever will.

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