Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 22, 1959

Churches Of Christ -- Statistics

C. D. Crouch, Lumberton, Mississippi

The Federal Bureau of the Census undertook to gather statistics concerning churches of Christ, in 1906, and the same process was repeated in 1916, 1926, and again in 1936. The latter year was the last time the Government has made any efforts along that line. J. W. Shepherd was appointed by the Federal Government to gather such statistics in 1906, and, I recall distinctly, that he made another attempt for the government in 1916. After Brother Shepherd's efforts, Brother Leslie G. Thomas was appointed by the Census Bureau to make similar efforts. It proved to be a very difficult task in each instance, and it was never considered that complete and correct figures were assembled in any of those efforts. That is not an adverse criticism of either Brother Shepherd or Brother Thomas. They each did as well, perhaps, as it was humanly possible for any man to do. I notice in the Census Report for 1936 a summary of the statistics was given for each of the years in which an effort was made to assemble the figures. The number of churches or congregations for those years were as follows: 1906, 2649 churches; 1916, 5570 churches; 1926, 6226 churches; 1936, 3815 churches. Thus, from 1926 to 1936 there was a loss of nearly half of the churches or congregations. We all know, of course, that report was not correct. The membership of the "churches of Christ" for those years, was reported as follows: 1906, 159,658 members; 1916, 317,937 members; 1926, 433,714 members; 1936, 309,551 members. Thus, according to the Census Reports, "churches of Christ" had more members in 1916 than in 1936 And according to same report, in 1926 there were 24,163 more members than in 1936. One of our preaching brethren had an article in a September, 1958, issue of Firm Foundation, which was no doubt intended to encourage, and "thrill" the readers, on "our" rapid growth, and presented some "statistics" from the "World Almanac", which tended to show that from 1948 to 1958 "churches of Christ" made an astounding gain of 481%. He didn't analyze the figures, nor tell us how the "World Almanac" assembled them. He did not question their accuracy. And the editor of Firm Foundation did not question their accuracy, nor comment on the so-called "statistics".

One significant thing about the figures given, that I could not help noticing, was that the figures given by "World Almanac" for 1948, are the same figures the Census Bureau gave for 1936. In a word the World Almanac gives the total number of members of "churches of Christ" in 1948 as 309,551. Well, the Census Bureau reported in 1936 that there were 309,551 members of "churches of Christ". During the period from 1936 thru 1948 "churches of Christ" didn't gain or lose a member!!! I wonder if during all that period of twelve years, we were in "the spit-and-whittle-circle"?

Since the Federal Government could not gather accurate and satisfactory figures in 1906, 1916, 1926, and 1936, with all the painstaking efforts of J. W. Shepherd and Leslie Thomas, and the great host of helpers they had, how is it that "we" can reply upon the figures the World Almanac gives for 1948, and 1958? And who supplied World Almanac with those figures? How were they assembled? But, it suits the purpose of some folks to accept such figures, and they are accepted without question. In the present-day apostasy there is an amazing CRAZE about "bigness", and anything with a flavor of "bigness" about it is accepted with eagerness. I am inclined to think that maybe some of "US" supplied World Almanac with those figures. You know, "we" have been furnishing data to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and it is not unsupposable that "We" have also supplied these data to World Almanac. Surely the World Almanac would not have "reached up and pulled those figures out of thin air". And yet, that is all that can be said of them. No one who thinks, at the same time considering the efforts made by the Federal Government through such men as Leslie Thomas and J. W. Shepherd, can accept these World Almanac figures as accurate.

But, "we" are "on the march"; "we" are "going places", and any thing that makes "us" look important from the standpoint of "bigness" literally "thrills us". "So mote it be".