BS: A Post for Chad Andrew Herring

Note: Chad Andrew Herring helped shape this blog post, but it’s not his fault if it’s garbage. 

Here’s a really great read from last week (salty language warning). It’s about Bill James, the pioneer of sabermetrics and MoneyballHere’s the money quote:

Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.

Youth group attendance is down because kids are just so busy.

The Presbyterian church is in decline because of liberalism.

Preschool enrollment is tanking because the new preschool across town.

We are explanation makers. Our minds grasp at ways to account for the things happening to us, especially the unpleasant things. Almost all of those accounts are based on our own limited perception and “make sense” only as confirmations of 1) our ingrained biases and 2) our desperate hope that we’re not the cause of the problem.

Most of it fits Bill James’ description of BS–malarkey, balderdash, hooey. Not because we’re deceptive, dishonest people, but because we’re not all that interested in the truth and the demands it will make on us.

Bill James and the sabermetric community in baseball have a terrific tool for overcoming BS and offering interpretations of baseball events that are closer to the truth: data. A single baseball game produces enough data to choke a VORP. I know a guy who’s company employs people who watch every pitch of every game every day during a baseball season so they can compile all that data and sell it to teams. Data is anti-BS serum.

When employed properly (so mind the small sample size). Data must be interpreted by insightful people who are after the truth. We’ve all seen raw data bent into percentages and ratios that are baldly self-serving. Data+skilled interpretation=truth.

The church has access to data about church membership and about the makeup of our neighborhoods, and we should compile and interpret the heck out of it for the sake of a thriving gospel ministry. The most valuable source of data available to us is the lived lives of the people in our congregations and communities, and there is nothing stopping us from listening to them and then listening to them some more in order to understand as fully as we can what people are up against and how the church can help.

There’s no excuse for BS anymore.

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