Whether a church leader or turkey farmer, it’s natural to look at the numbers, trends, and other key indicators when making decisions and investing resources. For instance, farmers might want to know that 77% of whole turkeys are sold in November.
It might also be helpful for them to know that for 2016:
- 244 million turkeys where raised in the United States
- 51.6 million turkeys were consumed on Thanksgiving day
Do the math, and you get 21% which means approximately one-fifth of the turkeys raised were consumed on Thanksgiving.
So which number is correct – 21% or 77%? Both are true. Herein lies the problem. Data and statistics are misleading and meaningless when we do not understand what the numbers represent.
For example, if your frame of reference is limited to Thanksgiving, it’s easy to believe the 77%. Doing so, however, overlooks the fact that throughout the year, turkey is packaged and sold in ways other than the whole bird (e.g., deli lunch meat, frozen dinners). Likewise, if your context for care is limited to issues commonly associated with care and prayer requests (e.g., health/hospitalization, death/grief), it is easy to overlook the fact that people are encountering all kinds of troubles, temptations, and turmoil.
- When turkey farmers become more concerned about Thanksgiving than turkey, they are deceived into thinking people consume turkey on one occasion only, and they miss out on the bigger 79% year-round opportunity.
- When the church becomes more focused on addressing issues than loving people, we are deceived into implementing a task-oriented and programmatic approach that concentrates on specific concerns, and we miss the discipling opportunity (i.e., unity and maturity) which is the heart and soul of the matter. [See James 1and Ephesians 4]
"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us" (1 John 3:23).
Though we may say we love people, based on the standard established by Jesus and expressed throughout the Bible, God surely envisioned more than reducing care to church sponsored programs or relegating the duty to a select group of people.
Based on Jesus’ teachings, we contend that pastor visits and programs should supplement rather than be a substitution for people loving and caring for one another.
Moreover, though fundamental to the Christian faith, the combination of 'good people' and 'good intentions' are not enough. That is because our natural inclinations are almost always inconsistent with God’s plan for people loving and caring for one another. We can help!