The emptiness of numbers and the richness of story (statistics, graphs, analytics, and 2023)

Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21
– image from the Web

As we wind up the year 2022 I find myself deep in the middle of so many statistics. Our family budget (I’m still figuring out exactly what retirement income looks like); sorting out my mother’s income and expenditures now that dad has gone; making projections into an uncertain future; scratching my head over royalties and click-throughs and more; understanding the readership and reach of this blog.

It is easy to become bogged down or overwhelmed by all the details, the dizzying arrays of graphs and number-crunching analytics, and forget that the point of numbers is to help us frame and understand a story. Without a story the numbers mean nothing.

So as we go into a New Year, wondering what 2023 will look like, I want to make sure that my vision going forward is firmly rooted in the story I want to tell, the story Rebekah and I want to live, rather than dollars and cents and budgets and projections and statistics.

Life should be more like church, where people don’t buy tickets but commit themselves, and where giving is an act of worship that supports mission and discipleship (or at least it should, because if there is no passion for following Jesus, and no clear Good News Story being told, then why bother?).

What will be our 2023 story?

So this “thinking out loud” begs the question, what story do I intend to tell over this coming year? What story do I/we want to live?

The story of Jesus is known as The Greatest Story Ever Told. But it is not a past-tense, looking back story so much as it is an ongoing narrative. It is a story we are not just asked to tell but invited to live.

In other words, all the numbers could line up in just the right way – from soaring blog statistics to solvent family budgets to church attendance records to volunteer hours logged, and more; but if our lives fail to tell the Good News Story, and if light and love and grace and mercy do not flow through our family then 2023 will be a disappointment both for us and for The One who so loves the world.

– North Carolina writer Derek Maul

I will be reporting some interesting numbers, yes; but most importantly I will be challenging myself – as well as you, this beautiful audience of readers – to move from reading the Good News Story to living it out loud.

As the writer of Hebrews put it, “May the God of peace produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him.” – DEREK

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