Involves adventure and movement, and it describes that unique experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people inspired by the vision of a better world who actually attempt to do something about it.These are good words that helped shape the way I seek to live in Chicago. Yet all the books, all the studies, all the experiences of others, and all the statistics can do major harm to us when we rely too much on them. Why? Because we will sacrifice names for numbers and people for percentages.
I was struck by this over the weekend because of two conversations. The first was with one of the physical therapy assistants where I am rehabbing my knee. He and I got into an excellent conversation about his church background and his current beliefs. He was open and willing to share where his heart is, holding a fairly subjective moralism common throughout the world - "If I'm a good person, I will have my reward." I was able to challenge him somewhat on his understanding of "good," on his view of God, what the Bible is, and who Jesus is. Then yesterday I was at the Gator bar here in Chicago for the game in which we were destroyed. I was there with an old fraternity brother who's a brilliant guy studying theoretical and applied physics at Northwestern. Through his study he is convinced there is some kind of creator, but isn't willing to go much further. I challenged him to take the next step to think about how a creating Being isn't a personal Being, especially when that Being created humans.
What I'm trying to say is that we can get really comfortable building our ministries and our churches off of the work of others. It is easy to say that atheists know religion better than Christians do, therefore we must respond in some way. It is another story to talk with your neighbor Gary and be humiliated in a conversation because you don't know anything about either Hinduism or his atheism. It is one thing to know that Chicago is a party city based off of the stench of beer on the streets in the morning and the statistics of how many people die each year due to alcohol related incidents. It's another thing to be at a bar packed with your friends John and Larry who don't seem to think much about Jesus but more about University of Florida football and drink specials.
Scripture has a lot to say both about numbers and names. The years of the earliest humans are given (Gen. 5), the number of the people of Israel is given from the beginning of Exodus on through the book of Numbers (Ex. 1; Num. 1-7). Censuses were taken (2 Sam. 24). The number of people present at Jesus' various feeding miracles is given (Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-10) and the number of people who believed after Peter's first sermon is told (Acts 2:41). And there are numbers of great symbolic importance such as three, seven, and twelve. However, names matter more. God's name is given (Ex. 3:14) and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (Phil. 2:9-11). For the Jews at least, names were not arbitrary but spoke to what God had done or to the character of the individual. Jesus, the friend of sinners, called Zacchaeus and his persecutor Saul by name (Luke 19:2-8; Acts 9:4). Paul sent personal greetings to individuals throughout Romans 16, naming each one of them. And if God knows the number of hairs on my head, he knows my name, Andrew, the name of the person whose head their on.
Percentages are harmful when people are sacrificed for them.
Numbers do harm when names are never learned or forgotten.
Let us be a people who know more names than numbers.
By His Grace.