Worth Repeating – A Quote on Stats

kinnon —  November 24, 2008 — 12 Comments


In many recent conversations, about this and that in the wonderful world that is Christendom, I have had stats thrown at me to explain why I am wrong on certain core positions I hold regarding the impact and spiritual effectiveness of megachurches.

To which I reply with a quote Mark Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli;

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

As you were.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

12 responses to Worth Repeating – A Quote on Stats

  1. It’s gotta be a coordinated effort. The same stats thing (was it the Baylor study?) was thrown out at me at my place, and I noticed the next day someone did it at iMonk’s place too.

    Kinda weird.

  2. Hey! Shouldn’t you be in bed young man. Let me tell you straight. If Ed Young Jr was your pastor, you would be.

    It was the Baylor study indeed. It’s kind of a Borg thing, I think.

  3. Did you guys know that the Baylor study said people in megachurches were more connected to historic Christian beliefs and were more involved than those in smaller churches.

    Facts are a hard thing.


    Now, to be fair, and AS I SAID when I “threw” it at you (grin), that is not to say that megachurches would have the same numbers when compared to healthier small communities.

    I am back to lying now… πŸ™‚

    God bless,


    Ed Stetzer, director of statistics at LifeWay

  4. Hey Dude.

    You think you’re the only one who beats me up with stats. That’s why I had to reuse the Twain misattribution. ‘Tis the only way to win arguments against facts. I think in comedy, we call it misdirection.

    And just in case anyone misconstrues the post. It wasn’t about Ed. At least not this Ed. (I’m just realizing I should have used an ED pun on my previous post. Dang it.)

  5. My father, the statistician, always said that you can use statistics to prove or disprove anything you want. You just have to get the right numbers …

    He never believed statistics. But he used them all the time … better than anyone else I know.

    Statistics are crap. For every stat anyone shows me for their point of view, I can find one for an opposite point of view.

  6. Bill,

    I was probably the guy who quoted Baylor at iMonk. Have you heard of any other studies that would make you think otherwise? I am interested in what might be out there. I know that my experience with Mega churches, or ones that are headed in that direction have generally been quite positive.

    Also just heard you on the Drew Marshall show. A very interesting conversation. I would love to have more of a thumbs up and thumbs down forum. I might see if I could organize something like that at Eclectic Christian, a blog that I started and administer. I would love to have you visit Eclectic Christian and give us some feedback concerning our blog.

  7. What is the saying about statistics?

    If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll say whatever you want them to say!

  8. Hey Bill – Happy Thanksgiving by the way. I’m doing a fly-by here so sorry that I missed the larger context for this quote – but just from the little I have seen here you hit on something I was just reading today. I’m reading a book called “How the News Makes Us Dumb,” and one of the chapters is on how the media uses statistics. He doesn’t quote Twain in the chapter but what the author says more than documents the truth of Twain’s words. Stats, especially based on polls, tend to be binary – i.e. do you prefer A or B. But we don’t think in binaries – nor do the poll results explain the reasons for choices. So, I’m with you on this.

  9. picking up on what david w. said, i find it hard to consider statistics and research unless they tell us exactly what questions they asked — because the ways you word you questions precondition the answers. it’s really hard to write a relatively neutral question to get at the information you want. sometimes you need emotion-provoking questions or scenarios to evoke a real and authentic answer based on what someone passionately feels, not just on what they think. anyway, i think we always need to consider the results in the inescapable context of the research and how it was conducted. but usually, never the twain shall meet, and thus we meet with Twain.

  10. Hey Bill

    I think your post is only 1/2 right, and I got the stats to prove it!


  11. gosh, all this talk about numbers and statistics… I think y’all are forgetting one favorite saying at the local megachurch, “But it’s not about the numbers…”
    Gives me a headache.

  12. i’ve heard that 69% of all stats are made up on the spot…


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