Misusing Statistics

October 08, 2007

The growing conflict at Two Rivers Baptist Church resulted in a vote yesterday about whether or not to remove Jerry Sutton as pastor. He survived the vote, but nearly 21 percent voted to remove him. This conflict has already resulted in a lawsuit and numerous media stories, all of which has likely hurt the Christian witness. Sutton, who has been accused of some very serious problems, has refused to release some documents to members, which might have been able to put an early stop to much of the conflict.

Following the vote, Sutton attempted to spin it in the Baptist Press. He claimed that only 4 percent of the total membership voted against him. Although that is technically correct, it ignores that fact that nearly 21 percent of those who voted ended up voting against him. His number downplays the level of opposition (after all, how many of the total membership hasn't been to the church in the last year?). Using his "logic" only 16 percent of the total membership voted for him--that is not a good number!

When one out of five people vote to remove a pastor, that should be a sign that the church has some serious leadership problems. Even though the pastor has kept their job they should get the message that some serious work is needed to bring the people back together. However, Sutton's spin suggests that he has not gotten the message. Instead, he appears to just be trying to save face while ignoring the voice of many within the church. As a result of his misusing of statistics, the problems are likely to remain. That reminds me of something Mark Twain once said about lies and statistics!