Little bitty flock of 1.6 million

Hi, I'm Bobby.

I'm part of a little bitty religious group. We call ourselves the Churches of Christ. This is how a Florida newspaper described us over the weekend:

The Churches of Christ is a small, theologically conservative denomination without a central office or officers, and its congregations are autonomous.

That reference came in a sad but newsworthy story about a church youth worker's arrest on charges that he molested two girls. The story itself was straightforward and seemed to include all the crucial news elements. This post has nothing to do with the subject matter.

Rather, the sole purpose of this whining epistle is to discuss the one little line referenced above.

I promise not to take too much of your time since we're talking about such a small group. But here's my question: Is size relative? At what level does a religious group become large? And who keeps the list of which groups are large and which are small? Because I'm a bit confused.

You see, according to the latest statistics from the National Council of Churches, a cappella Churches of Christ rank as the 16th largest Christian group in America with 1.6 million men, women and children in the pews. I don't mean to brag, but 11 of the 50 states boast smaller populations.

If we asked real nice, do you think The Ledger, the Florida paper, might refer to us next time as a medium-sized fellowship? (Notice I didn't use the term denomination because, as even The Associated Press Stylebook notes, Churches of Christ "do not regard themselves as a denomination. Rather, they stress a nondenominational effort to preach what they consider basic Bible teachings.")

As long as I'm asking questions, I wonder if the Florida paper would refer to the 15th largest Christian group -- one that receives (and this is the understatement of the year) no shortage of mainstream media coverage -- as a small denomination. I am referring, of course, to the 2 million-member Episcopal Church.

Hey, I just gave a specific membership figure. You can decide for yourself whether that particular denomination is large or small -- significant or inconsequential.

Hmmmm, that might be one option: Concrete facts instead of vague judgments.

I'm just saying ...

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