I am profoundly disturbed.
Why can't a simple question be given a simple answer--that is ACCURATE?
Are we winning or losing?
Is the Christian cause mounting or waning?
Is the cause of missions gaining?
Are Bible-believing Christians gaining on the world population?
Are they gaining on the growth of the world Muslim population?
Do Bible believing Christians--every day that goes by--become a higher percentage of the world's population?
Are they gaining in India, in America, in England, practically everywhere?
These are all basically the same questions.
THE ANSWER TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS IS "YES, YES, A 1,000 TIMES YES."
Then why do people say otherwise? Even quality Christian publications?
What set me off this time? Here is what happened.
A technical newsletter1 made an unguarded statement. Sure enough it was misinterpreted by by a much more widely distributed and truly superb newsletter2, then it was read by a respected mission executive, who proceeded to write a full-page editorial in a widely influencial mission house organ3.
All in vain! The original statement, once stripped from its context, became a truly false and alarming statement. Readers no longer had the data to interpret it correctly. Inevitably it sent ripples of poisonous falsehood throughout the whole world of missions! In one of many cases, no doubt, an unsuspecting mission executive tried to digest the alarming "fact" optimistically, but with statistics like that, all he could do is to suppose that if we try harder we may reverse a downward trend.
There are two problems: 1) technical skills, and 2) psychological mood.
The first is easy: don't compare a number composed of births minus deaths with another birthrate from which deaths are not subtracted.
The latter--the psychological mood--betrays a widespread loss of hope. I see all kinds of valiant people grabbing up the worst stories and trying to muster the spiritual force to live with them--and in many cases the stories themselves are not quite right.
OK, look at pages 40-43 if you want to see a full-dress review of one of the most astounding examples I have seen yet of the use of statistics negatively. Again, this was done in good faith by a godly, upbeat well-meaning leader!