Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Book to Read

I recently came across a book I really enjoyed and recommend to everyone who uses statistics about the church in your preaching or teaching. The book is “Christians Are Hate-filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told”, by Bradley R. E. Wright, PhD.

According to the information on the back cover, Dr. Wright is “Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, where he researches American Christianity.” His book de-bunks many of the negative things we’ve heard about the church through the years.

For years I have grouched and complained about how George Barna throws around what I consider to be bogus negative statistics about the church. If we believed him (I don’t but many preachers do) we would think God’s church was a total failure and was headed for extinction within a very short time.

I don’t believe him at all. I think, in spite of the fact there are failures among the congregations in our own movement and in every denomination, that for the most part God’s church is a marvelous success.

One example in which Dr. Wright challenges Barna’s writing is in the off repeated statistic that Christians get divorced as often as non-Christians. I’ve bored my friends and colleagues for years telling them this is simply not true! When I ask, “Is this true among the Christians you know?” they admit it isn’t, but they assume the statistic is true because someone wrote it down. As you can imagine, that does not make it true.

The interesting thing about the above book is that he challenges many of the negative statistics about Christians in general as well as the church and does it very intelligently, with a smattering of humor that makes it a little easier to read.

I’m a preacher myself, but I refuse to use statistics unless they both make sense and can be validated—otherwise I make it clear to my hearers that I am aware statistics are only as valid as the research on which they are based.

According to Dr. Wright, there is one area where the church is not very successful and that is in the area of bigotry. We have a problem loving people who are different than we are, that isn’t really a problem unless you consider the fact that loving people is the most important thing we are supposed to do. Unfortunately, I believe this statistic because I have seen it lived out in many churches.

In spite of this one weakness, the church is a highly successful organization, institution, movement, or whatever we want to call it. There is no doubt it is getting better all the time, it is growing rapidly throughout the world, and it helps people to be better people. I think we should praise God for that, and also thank God for Dr. Bradley Wright’s book. You should read it too. And he has a most enlightening blog you can read at www.brewright.blogspot.com. I also encourage you to check that out.

I'm Rick Blumenberg . . .and that's My View from Tanner Creek.

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