Numbers can go a long way in helping to explain things. Sometimes, too many numbers add to the confusion one may already be experiencing. And when it comes to number crunching, surely by now, we are familiar with the concept that two people can view the same data, crunch the same numbers and arrive at differing conclusions. If one likes variety, the commentary in blogland and the media concerning the SBC's LATEST NUMBERS has provided a lot of it.
The data recently released has given one the opportunity to say that the SBC is a dying soldier.(HERE comment #38) And this individual goes on to say that to refuse to acknowledge that the SBC is dying is equivalent to having one's head stuck in the sand.(HERE comment #42) While it is easy to see that the numbers in the area of membership and baptism have decreased, it is not easy to see how this implies impending death. A tree may lose a leaf or three in the winds that blow and it does not mean death to the tree. In fact, a rose will eventually shed all of its beautiful blooms and cycle through a strengthening stage before it blooms again or it may sleep for a winter waiting the God-given cycle of the seasons in which spring will come again and the rose will have opportunity to bloom. Ecclesiastes gives us this comfort that to everything there is a season and the writer of Psalm 1 records that a tree will bring forth its fruit in its season. It would be foolish to deny the fact that the numbers have fallen. It is rash to conclude that the SBC is dying. Unless of course God has given you an extra revelation.
There are some good thoughts about what is taking place in the SBC and to what end the numbers may have an interpretation. The following two quotes of individuals I have pulled from other blogs and will let you read them for yourself. A link to the original is there should you want to pursue these longer.
The following was posted HERE by Morris. Morris writes:
"I guess I have a little different take on the news. Should we not be considering the fact that maybe the Lord is pruning the SBC in accordance with John 15:2? Why does He prune? So that the vine will bear more fruit."
The following was posted HERE by Dave Miller. Dave writes:
"My point is that we need to examine the data rationally and openly. Debbie wants to use the data to support an extremist pessimism about the SBC. You have tried, I think it is fair to say, to downplay the seriousness of the data, at least to some degree.
I think the data demonstrates a problem. The sky may not be falling. We may not be at a Code Blue as Debbie would like to believe, but we do have a problem, which needs to be addressed."What I like about both of these quotes is that they encourage us to consider other options before we bury the SBC. I offer my own thoughts now as to what we should be considering as well as we digest the information that these numbers contain.
If, as a gardener, my garden begins to produce less and less there are a couple of questions I may ask myself.
1. Did I plant less seed?
2. Did I plant using Good seed?
3. Did I water what was planted?
4. Did I plant in the same field too often?
5. Did birds or insects devour part of my planting?
6. Did I have enough help to reap what I planted?
7. Did I pull up a veggie while pulling weeds or did my weed killer get blown by the wind onto
8. Did weeds choke out the plants?
These are all things that I can assess. But there are other options that stand above the rest. If God is responsible for giving the increase, then...
9. Did God give us increase but we lost more than we gained?
10. Did God just not give us much increase?
Perhaps you have other options to consider. I prefer the garden variety because so much of Scripture has an agricultural background but offer yours whether garden related or otherwise. While considering these possibilities, it is imperative that we do so with hearts interested more in God's working than our own agendas. Surely there is an explanation. It would be wise for us to see the whole picture before we declare a verdict. The Scriptures record that, "He who is first in his own cause seems just, but his neighbor comes and searches him out." Let us search the evidence and seek the Lord. And may God strengthen and mold the SBC that the lost, through the SBC, will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.