The Numbers Game

By Roland Worth, Jr.

People seem willing to tolerate just about anything so long as it results in growth. In the business world everyone will recognize this attitude at work. “X million can’t be wrong,” was one of the classic examples, used to great effect by a cigarette company a few years back. I wonder if the spawners of that idiotic statement lived in Germany during the birth of Fascism? Or in China during the Great Cultural Revolution? Millions upon millions supported these movements yet no one in this Nation would count them right by virtue by that fact alone.

Sexual double-entendre blossoms, especially in the advertising of certain airlines. The quality of the product is secondary to the “image” that is sold the people. Profits are the name of the game and the “sexy image” sells the product. Does anyone really believe that if marijuana were legalized that the major cigarette companies would not soon be grinding them out by the millions, loudly boasting of their great virtues?

Most people are realistic enough to recognize these evils in the business world yet many seem incredibly blind when the same “numbers game” is played in regard to religion. If we may go into the denominational world for an example, we should note the explanation of one Liberal as to why he supported the revivals of the Fundamentalist Billy Sunday, “Why, my dear sir,” he wrote, “the man has trampled all over me and my theology. He has kicked my teachings up and down that

platform like a football. He has outraged every ideal I have had regarding my sacred profession. But what does that count against the results he has accomplished? My congregation will be increased by hundreds” (quoted by William G. McLoughlin, Jr., Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney To Billy Braham, Ronald Press Company, New York: 1959, pp 419-420).

We would not expect such an attitude among genuine Christians. Yet was not a key argument in promoting the unscriptural innovations among us how many people could be converted? Wasn’t it the same old “numbers game” at work? Brethren became so obsessed with numerical growth that they forgot to make sure that the organizations they were using were authorized by .scripture. What they forgot is that numbers alone should never be our goal. If numbers were our goal, the better way of achieving it would be by abolishing our emphasis on immersion, the purpose of baptism and the lack of instrumental music. But we would never to that. That would be abolishing our claim to go strictly by a “Thus saith the Lord.” Brethren would instinctively react against such a down-grading of doctrine. Yet they would readily compromise the organization and work of the church, as also prescribed in scripture. The same God that revealed the purpose of baptism also revealed the proper work of the church. His will is defied just as much when we change or add to the work of the church as when we change the purpose and act of baptism.

Once again it took a division to make brethren realize that numbers alone are not enough-that scriptural authority must always be paramount. But for how long will we remember our lesson?

Truth Magazine XXI 45, p. 712
November 17, 1977