Do the math
The extent of my math comprehension was stretched past max when I was in the third grade. That's when I discovered that the multiplication table was about as far as my natural instincts for numbers would take me. Still, when the above image crossed my screen I was taken by it, even mystified. There's a rhythm to numbers that I don't get but do appreciate. How that arrangement of digits works is beyond my pay grade. But, it is incredible. Maybe the mathematicians are right. Numbers could actually hold the secrets of the universe.
They sure hold the wonders of politics and even the dynamics of church life. Let me illustrate. Understand, this is broad scoped and simple math and far from statistical accuracy. The numbers are from my head and don't represent any survey data. But, maybe they can relate how most of us learned to play numbers games but forgot to properly do the math.
Illustration 1: Church life
A discontented church member speaks in private with the pastor. He tells the pastor what a lot of people are saying. He won't name names for the sake of confidentiality. When the pastor does some behind the scenes research, his discovers reality:
1% of the church doesn't like the way he combs his hair
1 % thinks he spend too much time at the office (his wife)
1 % thinks he doesn't spend enough time at the office
2 % don't like his wife
3 % aren't particularly pleased with his preaching
4% thinks he caters to young people
4% thinks he caters to older peiple
5 % don't think he visits enough
5 % think he visits too much
6 % thinks he uses too much humor
6 % would like for him to use more humor
9 % think his sermons are too long
9 % think his sermons are too short
In a 100 member congregation the most negative of them are the two groups dealing with his sermons, nine people in each group. So, he spends the next three months trying to win over all the malcontents. Three months later they vacate the pulpit. They fire him.
Thought: Do the math. Add the negatives and they, while small in their preferences,
form an aggregate of 56%. They are now a majority. What unifies them is that they
are all dissatisfied with something. The hard math is that the pastor started trying
to please them and not God. Opps. Poor math. Playing the numbers game is not
doing the math.
Illustration 2: The nation
The demographics of the United States of America are a lot more complicated. But, the principle behind it works even though the numbers may not be absolute. So, do the math again. Here's a very unscientific representation---
Population of the United States of America 321,160,000 (Last census)
Ethnic population (as Defined by Census Bureau) 37%
LGTB population 3%
Feminist population 20%
Atheist population 2.4%
Aggregate of people wanting big government 62:4%
OK, the math and numbers here are real numbers but do not represent every component of the melting pot, stew, or quilt of the nations diversity. It's painting with a very broad brush. Factor in subgoups, like the Tea Party, liberals, republicans and democrats, street people, welfare recipients, the Social Security crowd, weirdos and fruit cakes and you get an even more shocking outcome. It's just an illustration.
Thought: The numbers don't add up, I know that. But, it does prove how minority
populations influence a society build around majority rule. The negatives get
together. The people on the other side then start making concessions to broaden
the base and raise the count of voters. In the next election they lose anyway. Politics
does make strange bed fellows. What is more, it teaches us poor math. Again,
playing numbers game and doing the math are on different levels.
Christian Americans better learn how to do the math if they want a place at the table with all the other groups in the public square. Already we're adept at playing the numbers game. Yet, we've got forty-eleven evangelical layers who can't seem to master the math of spiritual influence. And, its highly visible as Christian influence over the nation continues to trend downward. It's even more telling in a fifty shades of gray world, especially in the past couple of weeks. Doing the math really seems complicated when thousands, perhaps millions of so-called Christians are applauding recent SCOTUS decisions that defy the counsel of God and the sanctity of Scripture.
OK, Mr. Multiplication Table wizard. What does it mean to do the math? Differentiate that from playing numbers games. Well, there are a couple of thoughts here:
1. God always worked in a remnant. So, doing the math wasn't about counting
numbers or taking a census. Ask King David about that. It was about being sure
they were engaged by right doctrine, the covenants of God, and lined up with him
on every life issue.
2. Jesus didn't play numbers or guessing games. He summarized kingdom math
with a single sentence: "Whoever is not with me is against me..." (Matthew 12:30).
3. The spiritual battles are never ours but always the Lords. As God said to
Jehoshaphat, "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for
the battle is not yours but the Lord's" (2 Chronicles 20:15). Doing the math is
never playing numbers games.
4. He expects us to remain focused on spiritual issues. Paul wrote to Timothy,
"No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one
who enlisted him" (2 Timothy 2:4). Winning friends isn't what doing the math is
about either. Someone said, if winning friends is your life goal, then open an
5. Doing the math is one calculation: "If God is for us, who can be against us"
Doing the math isn't formulas, brackets, asterisks, or even mystical numerical pyramids. It is deciding once and for all whose side we are on. The pressure is on to accommodate moral standards at odds with the teaching of Scripture. It's an easy way to build alliances and grow the numbers. As we anticipate the state of the church in America and analyze the political landscape the temptation will be to increase numbers for a louder voice and bigger vote. You know, numbers games.
We must do the math of one. One audience. One faith. One baptism. One Lord.
Our declaration must be, "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).
It's the math. As in mathematics. As in mathetes, disciple.