Pastor: When Something Doesn't Sound Right
- Monday, July 05, 2010
This has happened to me again and again. I'm sitting in some huge meeting with hundreds of the Lord's people representing churches across our state or country. A large number of preachers are in the audience. The speaker is sounding forth on some subject of importance to us all.
Suddenly, the speaker comes out with a statement that gets a hearty "amen," something that sounds profound and undergirds the point he is making. He goes on in the message and everyone in the room but one person stays with him. Me, I'm stuck at that statement. Where did he get that, I wonder. Is it true? How can we know?
If "Facebook," that wonderful and exasperating social networking machine, has taught us anything, it's to distrust percentages and question quotations.
Yesterday, I noticed a Facebook friend's profile contained a quote from President Kennedy. I happen to know the quote and while I cannot prove JFK never uttered those words--how could we prove that about anyone saying anything--I know how the line got attached to the Kennedys. It's a quotation from a George Bernard Shaw play.
"Some see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I see things that never were and ask 'Why not?'"
In 1968, at the funeral of his brother Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy spoke that line as applying to him. It's a terrific depiction of vision. I expect for most of us, it was our first time to hear the quote. As I recall, the source was not given in the oration, which may have led some to believe Senator Kennedy made it up.
One thing we know, however, is President John F. Kennedy is not its source. Nor is any Kennedy. And yet, keep your eye out for that quotation. Half the time, its source will be listed as one of the Kennedys.
Accuracy is important for all of us, but particularly those of us called to preach the Truth to get people to Heaven.
Unfortunately, because we speak so often--many pastors deliver three or more sermons per week, fifty weeks of the year--our sermon machines devour a lot of fodder. It figures that sometimes we are going to get our stories wrong.
That's why a statement from a preacher one day last week hit me so hard and drove me to do a little research.
"Billy Graham has said that 70 percent of the members of our churches are unsaved."
A preacher friend on Facebook said that. I contacted him to ask for his source.
"It's on his website," the pastor said. "It's common knowledge."
A few minutes later, I replied, "Friend, I've gone to his website and there's a ton of great stuff there. But if you can locate that quote, you're a far better man than I am."
He promised to look into it.
In the meantime, I began searching the internet for what Billy Graham "was said to have said" on the subject of how many church members are lost.
I had a hard time deciding on the exact words to type into the blank, and ended up having to comb through massive lists of irrelevant material. Eventually, I came up with two pertinent quotations.
A preacher in Los Angeles said, "Billy Graham says 85 percent of the members of our churches are lost." And a consultant with our Southern Baptist North American Mission Board said the number was 50 percent.
Unable to find more, I put out the call to my Facebook network for "research geniuses" among us to help me find what Billy Graham had actually said on that subject.
An hour later, Damon Olson, a pastor from Sand Mountain, Alabama, came back with this response which he received from the Graham organization:
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