True Relevance Part 1: Stats Don’t Mean Crap!!!

I recently received an email from a church planter wannabe asking if I’d seen the latest statistics about what is relevant to young 20-somethings today. Apparently, along with the stats, was a book that told what these numbers meant to church structure and ministry for the 21st Century. Being open to the possibility that my general take on statistics concerning relevant ministry might be wrong, I checked into it. As a business major in college…and not a religion major…I always first check out the method for gathering data for any statistical analysis. In looking over the “collection process” for the statistics in this book I discovered that they were gathered from 25 to 29 year olds from 2002 to 2004. The book apparently took all of 2005 to write, edit and prepare for distribution and was finally released in 2006. After reading this, I knew my initial feelings were correct…statistics don’t mean crap when it comes to what is relevant!!!

Here is a book that untold thousands were buying in order to become “relevant” to young 20-somethings in hopes of growing a numerically large church. They should have flushed their money down the toilet…at least they’d get a thrill of seeing it go ‘round and ‘round before it disappeared down the drain. This book…and many like it…are just a colossal waste of time for church planters and/or churches that want to effectively reach the 25 years old and below crowd. The stats…and conclusions…are based on data collected almost three years ago. Much has change as far as relevance in that time. Forget the antiquated numbers on the “report”, just the time it took to write the book saw thousands of changes.

Last year MySpace was the rage. Today only 7th graders and Fortune 500 companies use it…the young 20-somethings have moved on to Facebook or Skype. Last year everyone wanted a Razr cell phone. This year it is cell phones with more Vcasting and text messaging capabilities. Last year Copeland and mewithoutyou were the hot bands for younger 20-somethings. Today it’s the Flaming Lips and The Mines. Oh yeah…The Police are back en vogue again with their latest tour. The point is, with all of the technology, internet and unlimited radio or television channels, what is relevant today is not relevant tomorrow…if you are trying to chase culture (more on the dangers of that in another post).

Statistics are great for letting church leaders know how many disconnected people live in an area or what kind of car people prefer. They suck when it comes to tracking culture, trends and relevance. By the time the data is gathered, analyzed and formulated into a conclusion…not to mention the time it takes to write and release the findings…the information is no longer relevant. Don’t buy it, don’t read it and don’t use it for a basis to structure…or restructure…a church.

So if statistics, polls and books about relevance are irrelevant, then where do you go to discover what is truly relevant? Just look around you! I’ll explain more in Part 2.

– written and posted by Chris Elrod.


8 thoughts on “True Relevance Part 1: Stats Don’t Mean Crap!!!

  1. I’m a young twenty-something and have no desire to follow all the latest trends and fads and I have no interest in knowing and participating in our trivial constantly changing culture. It is a full time job to do so and it would be a fruitless task anyway. I am more interested in knowing God through His Word , spending time with good Christian friends encouraging one another and praying for one another helping each other out when there is a need and sharing the gospel (sin, repentance and faith leading to good works) with whoever I am able. I do not even have a television.
    Well , I guess my point or my concern is.. If I were to attend a “church” such as yours and it would be just so culturally relevant ,would I even understand what it is you are talking about since I don’t even keeping up with such things. Would you be at all relevant to me? Shouldn’t your message be a message that doesn’t exclusively target a particular audience. In doing so aren’t you dividing the body of Christ into little cultural ghettos? If your message was just the plain simple gospel and sound expository teaching wouldn’t that keep you from excluding anyone and unify the body around God‘s word? In all the above examples in your article I can honesty say that I have NEVER heard of MySpace ,Facebook ,or Skype ,Razr ,Vcasting ,Copeland and mewithoutyou, Flaming Lips and The Mines. If it is necessary for me to know these things to understand your sermon (I assume that in order to be “relevant”, it seems that being relevant is a goal of yours, it would be necessary to make references to these terms that I know nothing about.) then the message would be lost for me. I could not understand this relevant gospel. It would become irrelevant for me. Do you care?

  2. Kenny…dude…four things:

    1) You’ve got to leave campus once in a while. That Christian college bubble is really messing you up!

    2) This was Part 1…save your judgement calls until you’ve read the entire series…I’m getting to all of that.

    3) Not that I necessarily need Biblical ammunition…but, Paul was the master of using culturally relevant stuff in his writings and messages…particularly in Ephesus. Oh yeah…Christ also did a pretty good job of being relevant to His culture with the parables He told. They were both pretty aware of the world…and culture…around them…and spoke about it quite often.

    4) You are assuming a lot about the church I pastor by one simple post. Go to my normal blog (, use the podcast link to the right and check out a couple of my sermons. You might find we have a few things in common.

    5) Congrats on not having a television. You might also try not having access to the Internet. 🙂

  3. Ok, two things:

    1. You look like Scott Chatfield

    2. I hate that I have to register to comment on your blog so I’ll comment here. I like the post so far. Really, I should thank Ken Silva. I would have never found this blog if not for them.

  4. Joe – First off, I’m waaaayyyy better looking than Scott. 🙂

    Secondly…yeah, I hate having to have people as registered TypeKey folks before they can comment on my personal blog. I was getting quite a bit of porn links and spam put on my page through the comments sections and trackbacks. TypePad said getting more agressive with security would solve the problem – which it has. The other solution was not to allow comments at all…but I do love the beauty of “open” conversation.

    Finally…thanks for reading.

  5. Now Be Careful, Scot’s a good friend of mine and a great, Godly man. 🙂 I hear you on the typepad thing I turned trackback off and it seems to have worked.

  6. Great post Chris. I agree stats don’t mean crap. If you want to stay relevant to today’s culture you have to be familiar with the culture. Which means you need to know the people in the culture, otherwise your relevance doesn’t mean crap. Relationship is the key to ministry. First we need relationship with our God, than we need relationship with the people we are trying to minister to.

    I mean come on how can you expect to reach metal heads if you hate metal? Or do not even know any of the music. Relevance first must start with knowing.

    Look forward to part 2.

    By the way I also have never heard of Copeland ,mewithoutyou, Flaming Lips, or The Mines, but then I am not trying to reach those people. I am sure though, mostly from reading your blog, that I would be able to understand your sermon even without knowing those guys.

  7. I attend Compass Point Church on a regular basis. I find Chris to be very relevant to the people of our church. I get a lot out of the messages that Chris delivers each week. What really comes through is his desire to get the message of Jesus Christ out to all ages. I know the focus is more toward the younger generation but as a 60 something I enjoy the fresh approach that Chris takes. There was a couple of weeks we were all pirates. That certainly was different and believe it or not relevant.

    I came to Compass Point after leaving a church where I had been a member for over 25 years. The church had become stale and stagnet. The “same old same old” every week. I never know what to expect from Chris and that makes church an exciting place to be. I guess what I am trying to say is that you may be reaching out to the 20 somethings but the older generation likes the changes too (well, at least some of us).

    Since I have been coming to Compass Point I have had 6 members of my family start attending that didn’t attend church. My daughter told me that she was never comfortable going to my old church. I thank God everyday for leading me to Compass Point. We now have 4 generations attending. Love Ya, Thanks Chris

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