I have never been a good flosser. I totally believe that people should floss. That I should floss. If questioned about my flossing habits I would be tempted to inflate my flossing statistics. And I'm not alone. As a country, we consistently over-report our true flossing routines.
We do the same with church attendance.
A recent Pew study verified that nearly half of Americans say they're in church every Sunday. Right. They head there after they floss and go to the gym--also significantly over-reported by Americans.
Another researcher--Phillip Brenner out of the University of Massachusetts in Boston--uncovered a much different reality when he asked people to give a time diary of their day. Where were you at 9 a.m.? What were you doing? Who were you with?
Actions and Intentions
When using the time diary method, only 24% of Americans appear to actually be attending a church service. Brenner postulates that many people believe they are the kind of folks who could or should attend church every Sunday. They intend to go. Except they don't.
What about me?
I'm in the 24%. Yay for me. But the survey methodology got me thinking about my own over-reporting. One area in particular--serving the poor and marginalized. I am definitely the kind of person who serves the poor. But I'm not a person who is actually serving the poor. Yes, our family sponsors a child (Ahmed) in Kenya and I've ministered to deeply impoverished communities overseas at least once a year for the past 25 years. But I have no intentional, regular rhythm of engagement with marginalized populations in my own community. If I had to report a time diary of my last week there would be exactly NO time spent serving the poor.
Today, the thought of it overwhelms me. I'm ashamed. And I'm not sure I really want to do this. Probably a lot like the 26% of reported church-goers who don't actually attend. I like the thought of it, but I'm not sure I'm ready to commit.
I've got a long way to go but reality has broken through and I'm now standing in truth--with unused floss in hand. A very good place to be if change is ever going to occur.
What about you? Are there areas in your life you're tempted to over-report because you're committed to the principle? Is there an invitation to make a change?
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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