I had a very beneficial and cordial conversation with Carl Royster this afternoon. He is the one who compiled the data for the new edition of Churches of Christ in the United States that is causing a ripple among CofC blogs. Being a data person myself I recognize what difficulty there is in trying to quantify something that does not necessarily have 100% clearly defined boundary markers. Since there is no governing body of the Churches of Christ to tell us what is going on we often rely on our publications to keep us up to speed. I have personallly raised a few questions about why this happened and while I am not totally satisfied with what is being published by 21st century Christian this time around there are a few things that I think someone needs to say.
1 – Data collection is no easy task. Brother Royster has done something that none of those complaining about what has happened have personally done. He has collected data through the web, email, and personal phone calls to try to discern how well churches of Christ are growing and to compile a list of up to date contact information from the churches in our fellowship. That is no easy task.
2 – Carl is trying to hit a moving bullseye. Things change so quickly these days we have to at least applaud the fact that someone stood up, took aim, and pulled the trigger. We may not all agree on the result but at least someone is trying.
3 – Carl has done what was asked of him. We can all say we would have done something different but the fact is, you cannot please everyone all the time. The other thing that has been missed in all of this is that I don’t believe this is the first time this has been an issue. This is the first time it has been brought to the attention of a broader audience as an issue.
4 – People are doing what is right by their own conscience. 21st Century Christian has a right to publish the list in whatever way they see as best. If I was an editor or a publisher I would certainly want freedom to do things that way I saw best and we need to give that liberty to 21st Century Christian whether we agree with it or not.
I am not saying that I agree wholeheartedly with what has happened because I don’t. I do ask that we treat people with love and respect as we discuss these things because these decisions are not made haphazardly and are typically done with great care and I would hope lots and lots of prayer. So just as Richland Hills spent several years in study, prayer and fasting in order to go instrumental, the men running 21st Century Christian’s decisions shouldn’t be any different. When they make a decision contrary to our opinion we need to understand that quantifying over 3 million individuals in several thousand congregations is no easy task.
So let’s just move on and make sure we continue to look at the larger issue – the decline in numbers in Churches of Christ in our country as a whole. That is obviously a much bigger issue than a publisher’s decision on one particular book.