There are a lot of things that I’m really very interested in that I’m not very good at. As a kid I was passionate about baseball. I was an All Star every year up to high school, but I really wasn’t all that great. I was just better than most of the other kids, who *really* weren’t great. It was a rather low bar. Same with tennis. Same with a lot of things – even into adulthood.
As an adult I’ve long had an attraction to numbers, but I’m not very good at them. I’m fascinated by them, but I can’t work out much of any kind of sophisticated mathematical formula to save my soul. That’s why last week I asked for some help on the blog. I needed someone to come up with a formula for me to crunch some numbers. And several people obliged. Many, many thanks to all who helped. I’m very much in their debt. It’s amazing to me the kinds of expertise that are out there. Some of my respondents were able to answer my questions off the top of their heads. Unbelievable.
My questions were about the rate of Christian growth, the topic of yesterday’s post. There I pointed out there that sociologist Rodney Starks, who unlike me is a numbers guy, figured out that if there were about 1000 Christians in the year 40 and about 6,000,000 in the year 300, you only need a growth rate of about 40% per decade to get there. And that, as it turns out, is the growth rate of the Mormon Church since it started in the 19th century. (Well, it was the growth rate of the Mormon church up to the time of Starks’s book; I doubt if it’s the growth rate now, since if it were, masses more of us would be Mormon….) No miracles are needed. Just steady growth.
There are lots of difficulties with these calculations that I intuited, and now that some of our faithful blog users have given me formulae for doing the math, I can express them concretely. They have to do with…
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