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Christian Leaders and Analytics

Abstract

This research finds that Christian leaders are called to apply strong analytical data and the associated analytical methods by both Biblical and contemporary secular academic sources. This research also concludes that two of the primary steps involved in the process of utilizing these resources (i.e., the data) and techniques (i.e., analytical methods and technologies) require a shift in the thinking processes within an organization (or between organizations) to build a foundation on which analytical practices can thrive. This research finds that one component of this shift in individual and organizational thinking includes a reliance or an insistence on facts, or data, instead of opinions in both traditional and more advanced forms of analysis such as textual and sentiment analysis. The manner in which Jesus Christ, the prophets and disciples, and other historical figures in the Bible regularly relied on and cited accounts from the Holy Scriptures demonstrates God’s command for His followers to rely on truth and facts. This research also finds that this practice, in turn, supports improved judgment or decision making. Decisions represent the ultimate leadership task and the effects of a leader’s decisions are often the source of their own evaluation criteria. This research concludes that Christian leaders need to rely on data-driven resources and techniques (data analytics) to improve the organizations they support and the God they serve. This endeavor is not without challenges, but the alternative scenario, including the reliance on opinions and the associated handicapped judgment or guessing, is secularly destructive (e.g., organizational insolvency) and against Biblical principles.


Christian Leaders and Analytics

It is essential for Christian leaders to make decisions using strong analytical data for several reasons, two of which include the practice of using facts, instead of opinions, to support arguments, discussions, and decisions and, subsequently, the pursuit of improved judgment. These practices are supported by both data analytics academics and leaders in the business community and also by the Scriptures in the Holy Bible, wherein leaders are called to be responsible in this manner.


Facts Over Opinions

The growing field of Big Data analytics includes sentiment analysis, a method regularly deployed to evaluate and better understand textual inputs from individual users, especially in the context of social media and customer review applications (e.g., Yelp). Sentiment analysis “is a field related to information retrieval and information fusion as it requires data to be collected, integrated, and classified”, and “distinguishing between facts and opinions is possibly one of the most important sentiment analysis subtasks” (Chaturvedi et al., 2018). For the purposes of this research, the terms data and facts are synonymous (Kipfer, 2005, p. 202).

The discernment between and separation of facts (or data) and opinions is critical to effective data analytics and the resulting decisions. Opinions may lead to disinformation, which “comes from either faulty analytics or a lack of analytics” (Bartlett, 2013, p. 59). Another benefit, simply stated, is that “fact-based decision making is faster on average” (Bartlett, 2013, p. 50). For an organization, faster (and better) decisions are valued because they are less costly at the individual level (i.e., the portion of the leader’s salary that was consumed in any single decision-making process). This is also true systemically across all personnel as well. For example, those employees downstream from the decision maker who are waiting for the answer, quite often while the problem at hand is accumulating negative effects (i.e., employees loading trailers in a distribution center who are “standing around” waiting to find out which shipment to load next).

This challenge applies to more complex problems and advanced analytical approaches as well, especially those requiring new and different ways of exploring the expanding mass of data available. For example, parallel processing is a method that provides analytical processing benefits in several forms including speed and efficiency. However, “data in graph problems are unstructured and irregular in nature”, and this issue makes it difficult, but not impossible, to “partition the data” (Ahmed & Pathan, 2019, p. 191). This is “an exercise that can be overwhelming”, especially if the decision maker is unfamiliar with the conduct, cost, and benefits of analytical practices (Bartlett, 2013, p. 51). To demonstrate their value to the organization, inexperienced or untrained leaders are at risk of oversimplifying the problem and the analytical approach, if any approach is actually applied, to get to a solution, any solution whether right or wrong, as quickly as possible.

Because of this, organizations “want them (leaders) to ‘unlearn’ opinion-based decision making” and to depend on the available (or required but not yet gathered) data (Bartlett, 2013, p. 51). This requires a mental shift, a refocus of dependency from a personally referenced source (opinions) to a new and better source (data). This is not a simple task. Jesus and His followers had (and currently have) this challenge teaching the Scriptures, teaching people to unlearn their personal habits, for example, their dependency on their works and to learn the forgiveness that the Messiah provides referenced in Ephesians 2:8 (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). As stated in Matthew 5:17, it is important to note that Christ did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). Depending on facts, on data, instead of opinions provides organizations with methods and results that can lead to improved judgment.


Improved Judgment

“The objective of data analysis is to provide facts that will support better judgment” (Bartlett, 2013, p. 50). Organizations, whether for-profit or otherwise, initiate corporate training or personnel changes for a myriad of reasons including the pursuit of improved decision making, an indicator of improved judgment. “Decision-making (DM) is considered one of the top executive roles” (Oumran et al., 2021). Judgment may be and often is measured and evaluated by the results stemming from a decision, including operational metrics like on-time deliveries or production line throughput. “When objective results are shown to make the most money, politics are less likely to force results to match politically inspired conclusions” (Bartlett, 2013, p. 72).

In Proverbs 3:21, Christian leaders are reminded throughout the Scriptures to value and maintain wisdom and discretion and John 7:24 tells us not to judge by appearances or opinion, but instead with righteous judgment (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). Analytical data and the application of data analytics techniques and technologies support improved judgment through the exploration and investigation of the facts (data) available to the organization. Without data, “we are forced to depend on opinions, which make us vulnerable to overconfidence and other sources of bias” (Bartlett, 2013, p.50).

We read in John 8:3-6 that the Sanhedrin often injected their own opinions and bias upon the Scriptures, including the prophesies (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). This ruling body also inserted their opinions regarding the law of the land in John 7:40-52, and this twisted their meaning away from the truth (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). Jesus called them out for this practice, saying “you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Matthew 16:3). This type of error mirrors the “causes of death” for making data- or fact-based decisions, including missing or unutilized qualifications (the Sanhedrin were supposed to be experts on the Scriptures) and/or the inadequate or erroneous use of the facts in formulating the decision (Bartlett, 2013). But Yahweh wants Christians to do better.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Psalm 90:12). God points His children to reliance on facts and figures throughout the Bible, including the construction of Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6:15 and the temple in Exodus 26:2 (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). He also holds a firm standard concerning judgment with no exceptions. “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Leviticus 19:35-36). In contemporary organizations, bad judgment can be mitigated or even avoided, in part, through the appropriate application of analytics. “Data analysis should be applied to avoid brain-dead decision making or guessing” (Bartlett, 2013, p. 55).


Conclusion

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Luke 14:28). Christian leaders are called to be responsible with their time and talents. This includes making decisions using strong analytical data and analytical approaches. This responsibility is emphasized by contemporary authors in a general, business-oriented manner and reinforced by the Holy Scriptures in God’s commands and examples. Two core foci in the application of this guidance include the dependence on facts instead of opinions and the resulting journey towards improved judgment. These seemingly simple and related steps can be fraught with challenges including those associated at the individual- (i.e., coaching) and enterprise-levels (i.e., cultural change), but as Hebrews 12:1 states, a Christian leader is called to overcome these contests, in Psalm 119:160 Christians are called to live in truth, and to serve responsibly in Matthew 25:21 (English Standard Version Bible, 2001).

References

Ahmed, M., & Pathan, A. (2019). Data analytics. CRC Press. https://doi.org/10.1201/9780429446177

Bartlett, R. (2013). A practitioner's guide to business analytics: using data analysis tools to improve your organization’s decision making and strategy. McGraw-Hill.

Chaturvedi, I., Cambria, E., Welsch, R. E., & Herrera, F. (2018). Distinguishing between facts and opinions for sentiment analysis: Survey and challenges. Information Fusion, 44, 65-77. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1016/j.inffus.2017.12.006

English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. https://esv.literalword.com/

Kipfer, B. A. (2005). Data. Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus (Third Edition). http://softouch.on.ca/kb/data/Roget%27s%2021st%20Century%20Thesaurus.pdf

Oumran, H. M., Atan, R. B., Binti Nor, R., Nor Haizan, Abdullah, S. B., & Mukred, M. (2021). Knowledge management system adoption to improve decision-making process in higher learning institutions in the developing countries: A conceptual framework. Mathematical Problems in Engineering, 2021, 9698773. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9698773

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