When referring to the global church, statistics are used quite frequently, and I get it. As a tool to understand something of such magnitude it is necessary to group people, to make generalizations and to try to understand the enormous size of the people groups we are referring too. I personally really enjoy statistics. I’ve always liked talking numbers when it comes to sports. There may not be a more useful tool in sports, and I’m guessing that 60% of you would agree with me on that.
There are, however, a few problems with statistics. The first is, they can be manipulated to say many different things. For example, if I wanted to argue that Dennis Rodman was a better basketball player than Michael Jordan, I could show you a statistic that says he got more rebounds per game than Jordan did. I could then back that up with another statistic showing his pass to assist ratio was higher than Jordans and he was a better off ball defender than Mike was as well. But let’s be real, we all know Rodman wasn’t near the player that Jordan was.
The second problem, and the one I want to focus on, is this…statistics tend to de-humanize. This is especially true in regards to relationships. Think about it. You can read a statistic that says an estimated 176,000 christians were martyred for their faith from mid 2008 to mid 2009. Breaking that down, that is 482 per day, or one every 3 minutes. That is staggering. You may think on that for a bit, maybe even say a prayer or two about it, but that will probably be the end of it. You don’t know any of those individuals. You aren’t picturing how they and their families suffered or how those left behind are dealing with the loss of a loved one. The truth is, you feel more called to pray for and help your sick grandma than you do to intervene in the life of a widowed christian woman in Palestine who has nowhere to turn now that her husband has been killed for his faith. Why is that?
In my opinion, it can be summed up in one word. Relationships. You have a relationship with Grandma, not with thousands of people in the global church dying for what they believe. You know Grandma. You see her struggling and you see how it affects Grandpa. You remember all the things she has done for you in the past and you want to help her because you love her on a very personal level. And I would say that responding that way would be…completely normal. Which is why I am proposing the following suggestion…
Don’t get bogged down in statistics. Don’t worry about saving the entire world or righting all the wrongs you see in every part of the globe. In fact, don’t even worry about helping one entire people group. The odds are good God doesn’t plan on using you to stop sex trafficking worldwide, or provide food for every starving or malnourished person in even one country. What He does call you to do is to be relational. To care for individuals. So I’m giving you permission right now, don’t focus on the masses, focus on individuals. Rejoice in the opportunity to help one, or two or three. Do you realize that if each Christian would do just that, the overall effect would be world changing?
You can be a world changer. Who is God placing in your path right now? Who has He equipped you to help? Don’t overlook the one because of the hundreds of thousands. Even Jesus himself invested heavily in a small group of men. He was our example. So go ahead and pray for the millions who are starving to death, but take the time to get to know one or two of them, and see what difference you can make in their world. Learn their name, who their family is, what life is like for them on a daily basis. Get to know their smile and their laugh. Rejoice with them, cry with them, pray with them, live life with them. I can say with confidence that you will both be better off for it.
So don’t let the enormity of the issues bog you down and cause you to do nothing. Invest in someone. If you don’t have someone at the top of your mind, let me make a suggestion. Take a mission trip to another country. Meet someone else in the body of Christ from around the globe. Start a relationship. Allow yourself to care. Invest in an individual. You will be a blessing, and you will be blessed. It is a win win situation.
I’ve done this, and I can tell you from personal experience, it is a blessing. The pictures of the people you have seen throughout this post are people that I have developed relationships with in Haiti. I hope I have encouraged them, and I know they have encouraged me. My life is richer because of this. The kingdom of God is growing because of it. They aren’t a number. They have names, families, lives, daily struggles and joys. They are my friends. Praise God, who in His infinite wisdom made us relational beings. To be truly fulfilled as God intended we need to have both a relationship with Him, and with others.
If you feel God calling you to encourage and invest in someone, but you aren’t sure who, please contact me. I know of a person in Haiti that could use your support and encouragement. I’d be happy to connect you and confident the relationship would be mutually beneficial. God is moving in a mighty way, be a part of it!