Please Stop Killing Me With Your Statistics

photo by John Steven Fernandez

One advantage to having a blog is that I can occasionally take up my megaphone, clamber up on a soap box, and go at it. So here goes…

I think we need to stop trying to motivate people with statistics. The world is full of gut-wrenching, heart-breaking statistics. Millions live in poverty, millions of babies are being aborted, millions of girls are trapped in the sex industry, millions of people have never heard the gospel. Each of these is a real, legitimate, heart breaking problem, and we need courageous people who are willing to put their lives on the line for these causes.

But here’s the thing: I’m called to love my neighbor, not a statistic. I’m called to do good as I have opportunity. I’m called to minister primarily to the man next door, not in Saudi Arabia.

See, statistics do two things to me…

First, they make me feel like a wicked, useless, fruitless wretch. They condemn me. They crush me. There are millions living in poverty and here I am eating french fries and drinking Coca-Cola, like I don’t have a care in the world. What a loser I am! How can I call myself a Christian when there are so many people in poverty and I’m not doing a single thing about it? Maybe I’m the only one, but that’s what statistics do to me. They don’t inspire faith in me. They don’t draw out fresh passion for God. They crush me with condemnation because I’m not helping enough. I feel like I should be doing something but I have no idea what to do.

The second thing that statistics do is fill me with fear/anger/despair. Woah, millions of babies have been aborted! Where is God? Why isn’t he doing something? Something must be done now! Everything is out of control! We must mobilize, militarize, take to the streets.

The reality is, God is here. He’s in the middle of all the messes. He is sovereign and just. Every wickedness will be repaid and every injustice will be righted. Our God is not absent, and he is far greater than any problem that confronts us. Things are not spiraling out of control. Nothing has escaped ?his ever watchful, ever caring eye.

So should we never use statistics again? No, but maybe we should use them a bit differently. First, let’s not forget about God. God is just and true and righteous and sovereign and all powerful. Every injustice will be repaid, every wrong will be righted. The return of Christ is not hinging solely on me and my efforts against the sex trafficking industry. I’ve got a wife, three kids, and a full time job. I’m one guy and I can only do so much. When we cite stats, let’s not forget to remind people that there is a real God who is control of all things.

Second, let’s not forget the gospel. Statistics can have a very condemning effect on people. If we cite statistics, let’s also remind people that their acceptance before God is based solely on the completed work of Christ. No more. If they can help in the fight against abortion, wonderful! But fighting against abortion does not make us more acceptable to God. Our statistics should be padded with the gospel.

Finally, we should help people connect massive statistics to something that they can really do. I can’t rescue every baby, as much as I wish I could. But I can help a young lady who is pregnant and considering an abortion, like my friends Adam and Pami did. I can’t take the gospel overseas but I can pray for the country of Morocco. I can’t rescue every orphan in Russia but I can reach out to the son of the single mom across the street.

Please don’t misunderstand me, stats aren’t wrong. And I fully believe in fighting against poverty and abortion and sex trafficking. But we need to be careful how we use statistics. If we really want to motivate people we can’t separate our statistics from our sovereign, gospel-giving God.

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer. I drink too much coffee and know too much about Star Wars. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook