Faith in numbers

Looking at membership and church-going figures is a bit like taking a peek at your bank account on line on the days when it doesn’t make comfortable viewing.  But decline is endemic, isn’t it  … so why would we think that the tide might come in on our stretch of the beach when it is going out everywhere else?  Except, of course, that we have growth as well as decline.  And sometimes the decline is entirely understandable and predictable – places where there has been a long vacancy or where relationships have been difficult or where the diocese has failed to sort out long-standing problems.  But sometimes we have growth and sometimes decline and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason for either.  And numbers don’t tell you about quality or about what is happening in the micro as well as in the macro.  I’m a great believer in trying to sort all this out – planning, organising, being business-like about things.  You can’t just keeping on doing what you do and hoping for the best.  But the glory of it is that you can’t predict or control it either.  Hence my underlying belief that, when I apply all my energies at point [a], I shall probably see nothing whatsoever change.  But my efforts at [a] are almost a precondition for something surprising happening at [b].  It’s obvious, isn’t it?