Get to the Right Road Soonest! (by Paul Thompson)

by Guest Blogger on December 8, 2011 · 73 comments

(Paul Thompson blogs at theBridge and offered this take on recent Lifeway research. Thank you, Paul.)

On December 7, 2011, LifeWay Research released results of a recent survey on the Perceptions of Faith Groups. I would like to express concerns about some of the underlying assumptions behind the survey.

I realize any fool can throw a rock. It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “asking questions are as easy as kissing the back of your hand; to answer them is as hard as fattening a greyhound.” It is my attempt here, to fatten the greyhound.

It does not surprise me that the findings of Ed Stetzer are statistically accurate. Yet as a pastor in a Southern Baptist Church, I would be disappointed if Southern Baptists were considered more favorable by Americans than Methodist. The survey needs to better define some terms for me. I want to know what LifeWay Research means when they use the word ‘American.’ Is this secular America? Is this pagan America? Is this conservative America? Is this a Spirit-led, Bible-believing, God-fearing America? You see, if it is secular, godless, institutionalized America, then I fear that the intention behind the survey and the results themselves will deceive many. Pastors who are slaves to popularity trends and in bondage to cultural acceptance will read the findings of this survey and willingly enslave their passions to a master who demands his servant’s obedience. In a day where much of the Church in America are mesmerized by emotionalism or in some sort of zombie (unliving) hypnotic trance of the corporate model for church structure, this survey will only ensure that tragic condition remains the norm. Then another survey will need to be done in about eight years to show how Mormons and Muslims are considered more favorable than Southern Baptist. We may be closer to that reality than not, even today.

When David sinned against the Lord by numbering his military strength (1 Chronicles 21), he was given the opportunity to choose one of three consequences. He told Gad to tell God he was “in great distress.” David understood the character of God enough that he would rather “fall into the hand of the LORD” and pleaded that God not let him “fall into the hand of man” because “His mercies are very great.” The intent behind this survey reminded me of David’s census.

Further, there is no badge of honor if we as Christians – much less Southern Baptists – rate lower than others if we own that place among the godly. If we own that place because we are stiff-necked and out of sorts with biblical rightness, we must not blindly take pride in our “unpopular” position among those who chase hard after God.

Baptists – and Methodists, Presbyterians, Non-denominationalists – Carry the Gospel banner! It will be viewed as either foolishness or salvation depending on the ear. It may not be popular, but it is as needed, just as it always has been and always will be. To establish a rescue mission within the yard of Hell, you will need a Gospel banner – Not a popular slogan that feeds the idolatrous bent of man to worship himself.

I have two pleas for LifeWay Research:

1. Give us resources that unapologetically equip saints for the duty of carrying the Gospel banner to all nations. Make it all about the Gospel, yes, the offensive Gospel. The one where the gates of Hell cannot stand against, and the one that inflames the Enemy’s passions . A popular gospel tickles the ears and damns the soul for eternity.

The right road is difficult, few want to travel on it, but get to it!

2.Employ great discernment when publishing survey results. I am thankful to God for the heritage I have in the decades of Spirit-led, Bible-believing, God-fearing churchmen, known to the world as Southern Baptists. Not because they were Southern Baptists, but because they loved obeying God rather than pursuing friendship and popularity with the world.

Oh Southern Baptists, let us repent and choose the same as David. For God’s mercies are very great! Fear not the polls of man. It was C.S. Lewis who said, “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” The road paved with surveys will crumble when the Maker of Heaven and Earth shakes your opinion. Read surveys like this with extreme caution. Get to the right road soonest. Don’t let your heart be troubled when man thinks less of you than you wish. Rather, lift up your heads for there your “redeemer liveth, and on the earth again shall stand.”

1 Dave Miller December 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Gauging public perception is hard, isn’t it? I’m grateful for your perspective on this. It can be helpful to understand how people perceive us as Southern Baptists, but as soon as we start working to be popular in our culture, we start compromising things that shouldn’t be compromised.

Thanks for sharing this, Paul.

2 Christiane December 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

“Yet as a pastor in a Southern Baptist Church, I would be disappointed if Southern Baptists were considered more favorable by Americans than Methodist.”

why?

3 Doug Hibbard December 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Depends on how we’re doing “favorable.” Most Southern Baptists, especially ministers, hold to viewpoints that are generally “unfavorable” in America: Biblical standards of morality have really never been popular anywhere. Even under so-called Christian Empires, standing firm for Biblical truth was not popular. Consider what happened to John Chrysostom (among others).

Most of us perceive that the United Methodist Church, for example, has made compromises to gain favor amidst the culture and we’d like to think we have not done the same thing. So, on the one hand we do not want to be considered “more favorably” than the Methodists.

Consider this: one man’s “stubborn and old-fashioned” is another man’s “resolute and faithful to heritage.” Depends on who you ask and how you ask it.

And then there’s John 15:20 to be considered.

4 Jake Barker December 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Christiane,
The UMC has watered down the Gospel at every opportunity. You ask how? By allowing sodomite union ceremonies in contradiction to the Book of Church Order and the will of the quadrennial conference whose rules are technically the law of the church and (supposedly) Scripturally based. By ordaining non-celebate sodomites as clergy. By dening the divinity of Jesus, by dening the virgin birth, by dening the actual, physical resurrection. The list could go on and on. The UMC as a whole believes that “being good” will get you to “heaven” and yet denies the reality of heaven and hell.

5 Christiane December 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Thanks to both DOUG and JAKE for their responses.
I appreciate you both taking time and effort to help.

My sister graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, and found it to be an excellent school (although expensive, even then).
She was not aware of any extreme positions of anyone there and found it to be a wholesome environment for learning. She was not discriminated against for her Catholic faith.

Not sure if Virginia Wesleyan in Norfolk is connected to the UMC, but my parents visited the school prior to my sister attending there, and they had no awareness of anything other than a good environment for my sister. They bought her a small townhouse nearby and visited her frequently, and enjoyed meeting her friends and professors at college events.

You can see my confusion . . . the reason for my ‘why’ question.

6 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

Weslyans are not United Methodists.

7 Wade Phillips December 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

One of the ways we might be a little more well perceived by the people around us without sacrificing our Biblical principals might be to stop referring to homosexuals as “sodomites.”

8 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 4:00 am

Because the survey refers to Methodists is part one of why I mention them. Part two is because of the slippery slope the denomination has tragically been on for many years. I know of strong non-culture bending Methodist churches. But the denomination, as a whole, seems to be chasing after survey results that ask the unconverted what they want rather than obeying the commands of our Lord. I don’t want a higher ‘approval’ rating based on what the unconverted want us to be like so they might think about attending.

9 William December 8, 2011 at 8:10 pm

You said, “Employ great discernment when publishing survey results.”

What do you mean by that?

10 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 3:49 am

William,

I don’t question the integrity of the statisticians. I hope anyone who is involved in the study or on the task force appointed by SBC president to consider a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention realize the implications of a study like this. The greatest risk in this, I think, is that once a survey of this magnitude is published (as it has been) it has the potential to begin charting the course for pastors (especially lazy pastors) who will give less attention to doctrine and ministry and will use this kind of survey to hide behind as to why their church doesn’t have any impact in their culture and if ‘we’ are to have any impact we must (fill in the blank) to accomplish this.

I’m asking LifeWay Research to employ great discernment when publishing survey results because they will be unfortunately looked at by well meaning pastors for direction on how to ‘lead’ their flock. I’m asking LifeWay Research to understand her place carefully. It’s not that I don’t think they do. It’s that I think this survey and the questions being asked in it are largely unnecessary. As a pastor of the Lord’s people who gather at 204 Eastland Drive North in Twin Falls, Idaho, known as Eastside Southern Baptist Church, we want to be cautious about the blowing winds of favor-ability scores of Americans.

This kind of survey will most likely be posted in the newspaper in my local town of 42,000 people with a prominent Mormon temple serving South Central Idaho of nearly 175,000 people. I don’t need the help of a survey result (by LifeWay Research) to convince the people in my area that a Southern Baptist church is not what they would go looking for in a church if they wanted to. That’s the inherit danger of survey results… Americans tend to behave the way a survey tells them to behave.

Historically, in my area, when a survey result is published, it takes a few years, but eventually church members will start behaving they way the survey result tells them they should. For example… Sunday night services and Wednesday night prayer meetings are nearly non-existent among Southern Baptist in the Magic Valley Baptist Association. There may be many reasons for this, but I have been to enough association meetings and state convention meetings over the past 20 years to hear someone from an SBC establishment site a survey that says our people are only going to give so much time to their church. If you hear the survey results enough times, people begin to behave the way the survey result tells them to behave. I think that is cause for great discernment among researchers and I want them to know I’m asking them to employ great discernment. I will most likely hear someone very soon at an associational meeting or state convention meeting site this survey (most likely, out of context) to give reason for their agenda that is misdirecting.

Longer than expected answer to your short question…

11 William December 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thanks for the lengthy answer.

You’re worried about improper responses to facts and posit a solution that facts be withheld lest lazy pastors respond improperly. And you’re asking LifeWay Research to determine what facts should be withheld from SBCers.

I’m not with you here. It’t awfully tough to make a solid argument that SBCers should be kept ignorant.

You mentioned LR’s “underlyng assumptions” to their survey. I was what these were and how you know there were any at all.

12 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

From my reply to your question, I can see why you would think I’m asking LifeWay Research to withhold facts, but I’m not suggesting ‘facts’ be withheld. The facts are facts. These ‘facts’ are derived from the way the questions are asked, who they are asked to, and then interpreted by a potentially pre-determined bias. I’m more concerned with the front end. I’m not accusing LifeWay Research of having an agenda behind the survey, I’m asking them to employ discernment.

One of my greatest concerns in this type of process is that LifeWay Research asked people who are not among us to back a reason impacts us.

The name is really not of great interest to me. It’s the process that gets employed to do something that is of greatest concern for me. It does matter how we do things.

13 William December 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

You said: “The survey needs to better define some terms for me. I want to know what LifeWay Research means when they use the word ‘American.’”

LifeWay explained: “Methodology: The LifeWay Research survey was conducted Sept. 23-26, 2011, using an online panel. A representative sample of the U.S. adult population was invited to participate. The sample of 2,114 provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.2 percent.”

There’s your answer: Americans are “U. S. adults”

You refer to the “underlying assumptions behind the survey.” What underlying assumptions?

14 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

It is clear that the definition to the term ‘Americans’ in the survey is ‘U.S. Adults’. I’m asking ‘who are these Americans?’

are they: “secular America? Is this pagan America? Is this conservative America? Is this a Spirit-led, Bible-believing, God-fearing America?”

Further reason why I have a concern of the intent of the survey. These are slippery slope questions to be asking Americans about what we ought to call ourselves.

15 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

Americans are Americans. Some are secular, some are Christian, some are pagan, some are conservative. If the survey didn’t control for religious or political viewpoints, then it is most likely random. If the survey is looking for the viewpoints of a cross-section of America, then it wouldn’t make sense to control for those factors.

16 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 11:06 am

I agree Bill. But my question remains in the arena of concern for the slippery slope this takes us on. The winds of public opinion can not be what we chart our course on.

17 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

Well sure. Has anyone suggested that?

18 William December 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Would you offer a least a single example of how LifeWay Research’s survey is tendentious? One question that demonstrates that the process is flawed? Thanks.

Paul, I don’t see the value of researching what we think of ourselves. I would like to know what others think of us and then be left to decide for myself what should be done, if anything.

I think you have run off a cliff with your reasoning here, though I understand your concerns. How about offering an alternative to what LWR has done in their latest research?

Thanks.

19 Peaches December 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

If Southern Baptist are percieved negatively becasue we are standing in integrity with Christ, being faithful to scripture, loving people and obeying the commands of God then we have nothing to apologize for.
If, on the other hand, we are negatively percieved because we are selfish, angry pharisees who are inwardly focused, igoring the commands of Christ then we much to repent of.

20 Dave Miller December 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm

True. The problem is how do we figure out which is which.

21 Rick December 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

75% of the Christians in my household NEVER read SBC Voices. Changing our name to The Office would not really help, even though that’s a popular show with the target group. It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. Dave is not Dwight.

My point is that those who oppose us really oppose who we are and Whose we are. Giving them another name by which to call us will not move the percentages.

22 cb scott December 9, 2011 at 9:44 am

Rick,

A most excellent observation.

Another money quote of the week:

“My point is that those who oppose us really oppose who we are and Whose we are. Giving them another name by which to call us will not move the percentages.”

23 Max December 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

“My point is that those who oppose us really oppose who we are and Whose we are. Giving them another name by which to call us will not move the percentages.”

Brother Rick – I have read countless blogs and articles on the SBC name change issue. Slanted stats, hearsay, opinion and agenda have flooded the airwaves. As far as I’m concerned, you have provided the bottom-line here … a quote that rings true across the SBC landscape (regardless of one’s geographical reference point).

Brother Paul – “Oh Southern Baptists, let us repent” is the real need of this hour. Thank you for your perspective on this.

24 Jeff Pasons December 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

I think we have to be careful about assuming that those who perceive SBCers negatively are doing so because we are ardently standing up for the gospel. It could be as Peaches said, it may be because of the way we approach issues, or it could be because we stand on biblical principal. It’s hard to say. We all have a sinful nature and just assuming negative perceptions exist due to our adherence to scripture could result in SBCers being blind to our faults. Surveys like this make us examine ourselves. I can’t see anything bad coming from that.

Also, saying Lifeway shouldn’t publish surveys like this because some will be irresponsible with the results just doesn’t hold up. That mindset is antithetical to the entire philosophy of ministry of the SBC as a whole and soul competency specifically. We are all expected to seek the truth both in scripture and our culture so that we may be effectively and missionally involved in our communities, leaving only the stumbling block of the gospel as the only offense.

25 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 11:44 am

It is always a danger for Christians to assume that resistance or poor opinion automatically means we are doing the right things, as if animosity is a badge of honor. Sometimes Christians can be disliked for good reason. Please don’t read more into this than a simple point: I’m sure Westboro Baptist believes that because practically everyone on the planet hates them, they are on the right track and doing the Lord’s work. Just a caution for us.

26 Doug Hibbard December 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

That is true. Somewhere, I think someone said that the Gospel will always be offensive to some. If it is the Gospel within us that offends, that is not our problem. If it’s just us being jerks, that is our problem.

I think with the article on the survey results, what I was left wondering is this: how much of the “unfavorable” view of Southern Baptists is because we’re jerks sometimes and how much is because of the Gospel within us? That’s one I don’t think we can get a research systems-based answer to.

27 Max December 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I have been a Southern Baptist for 50+ years. My tenure in SBC ranks has spanned several geographical areas, membership in numerous SBC churches as my professional career required locality change, fellowship with all shapes and sizes of Southern Baptists, participation in Gospel ministries of both small and large SBC churches, and confrontation of light and darkness as the Rock of Offense was shared with the world from those lighthouses. I can honestly say that from my vantage point, I have never witnessed “jerk” ministry from those I have served with. I must have been blessed.

28 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Allow me to offer one reason for the 14% approval rating by using comments gleaned from this thread:

1) Biblical standards of morality have really never been popular anywhere.

2) I would be disappointed if Southern Baptists were considered more favorable by Americans than Methodist.

3) The UMC has watered down the Gospel at every opportunity.

4) But the denomination, as a whole, seems to be chasing after survey results that ask the unconverted what they want rather than obeying the commands of our Lord.

5) It’s that I think this survey and the questions being asked in it are largely unnecessary.

6) If Southern Baptist are perceived negatively because we are standing in integrity with Christ, being faithful to scripture, loving people and obeying the commands of God then we have nothing to apologize for.

7) My point is that those who oppose us really oppose who we are and Whose we are. Giving them another name by which to call us will not move the percentages.

8) Is this pagan America?

On the one hand the author of the lead post apparently wants Lifeway to print material worthy of discerning SBCers but on the other apparently wants Lifeway to withhold information. The message is simply, “let’s treat SBCers like adults in things that we like, but like children in those that we do not.”

On both hands comments such as these seemingly suggest this world is without hope absent the SBC. Which is pretty amazing given SBC can’t even get its house in order. If SBCers would be a bit more humble concerning their beliefs, however strongly held, the 14% might improve. That it is 14% to the Methodist’s 40% is not, as some seemingly suggest, a badge of honor for SBC.

SBCers, receive the criticism from the report, and please don’t blame the Good News for your bad news.

29 Jack Wolford December 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Southern Baptist Pastors and Churches should be known as experts in what area of EVERYONES lives . How does flouting be a Democrat or Republican acomplish that ?

30 paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I don’t want LifeWay Research to ‘withhold’ information. I’m asking them to employ discernment, meaning employ an ability to judge correctly the data. I’m asking for confidence before, during and after the statistical work is done, but especially with how the data gets reported.

I think this kind of information is helpful and risky. I’m not asking them to not do this kind of work, I’m asking them to exercise responsibility and at least give consideration as to how this data will be used.

I’ve been told many times; “If you want to grow your church, you do it through the Sunday School.” That statement may be true, but it is in conflict with Scripture. It puts emphasis (intentionally or unintentionally) on humanity – Jesus says “I will build My church.”

I’m not pleading with LifeWay Research to hide or withhold any findings in a research project they do. I’m pleading with them to judge their own intent, data and report.

31 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Paul: … to employ discernment … [and] confidence … with how the data gets reported. … I’m asking them to exercise responsibility ….

bapticus hereticus: LifeWay asked a reasonable question, then received and reported the responses. Pretty basic and responsible.

Paul: … in conflict with Scripture ….

bapticus hereticus: Then don’t have Sunday School.

32 paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

lol…

Bapticus Hereticus: LifeWay asked a reasonable question, then received and reported the responses. Pretty basic and responsible.

Paul: I’m not questioning the reasonableness of the question, I’m questioning the audience of the question(s)… Man or God? You see, we already have a plumb-line. A survey potentially sets a different plumb-line. I’m attempting to respectfully plead with LifeWay Research to research the already established plumb-line we have in a trusted source; ie. the Bible.

Bapticus hereticus: Then don’t have Sunday school…

Paul: We don’t

33 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I don’t think this is an either/or proposition, nor do I think people are insisting SBC to reconsider it’s biblical plumb-line. Some may not prefer it, of course, but I surmise even SBCers don’t fully agree on what should be considered the biblical plumb-line.

34 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I’m attempting to respectfully plead with LifeWay Research to research the already established plumb-line we have in a trusted source; ie. the Bible.

I don’t know what this means.

35 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

“I don’t know what this means.”

Surveys become plumb-lines of sorts. I’m saying we already have a plumb-line… the Bible. Listen to what will begin to come from leadership with in the SBC. Will they use Scripture to persuade or the results of LifeWay Research to persuade? Listen

We were once known as (and now must continue to be) a people of ‘the Book’ meaning the Bible is sufficient, period. I’m saying I don’t want to be known as a people of the survey report.

May the church of the risen Lord hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

36 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

It is not that Paul is without a point (which as an adult would be better made without laughing at others or other’s thoughts in the process of doing so), but it is not the point that is relevant to what LifeWay seemingly is doing. That is, LifeWay wishes to know public perceptions of SBC, which would legitimately be received as more or less relevant to various aspects of SBC. Paul is seemingly and rightfully so, suggesting that where SBC is faithful to scripture, evaluation, other than God’s evaluation, is ultimately irrelevant to it and thus beliefs and structures need not be changed to fit public perception. LifeWay on the other hand seems to be interested in knowing where people stand regarding SBC, and that where SBC can enact change with integrity, by doing so it might broaden its appeal to people and thus by implication provide people with further exposure to the Good News. That the seeds grows secretly is not disputed, but it behooves us to consider not hindering its progress as we attempt to provide whatever nurture that is possible. Thus a possible take-away from the research.

37 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

@ Bapticus Hereticus (the problem of the printed word…) I perceive, could be wrong, that I didn’t communicate effectively with my attempt to interject a lighthearted ‘lol’ earlier. It was not at you, it was because of the statement ‘Then don’t have Sunday school’. Ironically, because we don’t conduct a typical age-segregated Sunday School is the reason for my ‘cyber chuckle’. I was laughing because, not at. No offense was directed or intended. I’m apologize. I appreciate the dialog.

38 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Thanks, Paul, for the explanation. While I differ from you on Sunday School being in conflict with scripture (but in agreement that it must be foundational to church growth), in some churches I have attended, it would not be my preference to be in a Sunday School class, preferring instead to use the time to read and pray in the sanctuary (before the noisy worshippers arrive) before the service.

39 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm

(but in agreement that it must be foundational to church growth)

Meaning: I agree with you that SS should not be seen as the end-all of church growth, that it must be foundational to such.

40 William December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

LWR asks their representative group of US adults to choose answers to the following question: Q. “For each of the following denominations or faith groups please indicate if your impression is very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, very unfavorable, or you are not familiar enough to form an opinion.”

Respondants answer.

LWR compiles the answers, raw data, into charts.

Should this question not be asked?

Is this question flawed?

How should LWR be discerning about the answers?

Exactly how should LWR “judge” the responses? They merely compiled the raw data and presented them. You and I get to ‘judge’ the results, not LWR.

Would you suggest what LWR should do differently to “judge their own intent, data, and report” in a more acceptable manner to you?

You are clearly asking that LWR either not ask some questions or withold some results. There’s no route to making your point without one or both of these.

My view would be that LWR should ascertain the opinion of Americans on matters that pertain to the SBC. We can use or discard the results.

41 cb scott December 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Jesus did say, “…….I will build My Church…….” That is true and there is a context there also that cannot be ignored if one wants to maintain a position that is not “in conflict with the Scripture.”

Jesus also issued the Great Commission to the Church. Sunday School, as Southern Baptists promote it,(if properly executed and maintained)is an excellent tool for the use of God’s local manifestations of His Church to use in fulfillment of the Great Commission.

42 Fred Johnson December 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I think there may be a simpler explanation than the whether people disapprove the SBC because of good theology and love the Methodists because they are liberal: bad PR on our part and good PR on theirs.

For a couple of years, the UMC ran a stellar advertising campaign called, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” The Mormons have run family oriented ads for years. The last SBC ads were after Katrina and ended with, “Brought to you by the Cooperative Program.” That’s six years, but might as well be a million in perception years.

The truth is that most people have no idea what SBC churches believe, but an absence of information will always be filled with negative information. That could be what is happening here.

43 Jeff Parsons December 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I think Ed Stetzer gave Paul the best response possible regarding this topic:

“……..facts are our friends. We think they are worth knowing.”

44 Rick Patrick December 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Perhaps a nice question might be: “If you have an unfavorable view of Southern Baptists, would your view likely change if they began referring to themselves as something like Global Baptists or would you simply transfer those same negative feelings to the newly named group?”

45 Debbie Kaufman December 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Rick: I think that would be a fair question to ask.

46 Eric Futrell December 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm

There are some information/questions that I would like to see answered:

1) 2,000 people is not a very large sample of people; especially considering the population of America – but for this group: I would like to know more about them, i.e. where are they from; what are their beliefs; how old are they. The survey was done online; how? was there a page to navigate to or was it done via email? I just want to know these things so that I can understand the results better.

2) the survey should ask why they see the groups as favorable or unfavorable – otherwise, we really don’t have any application for this than to say that just over 2000 people, somewhere in America, of indeterminate age or faith view these religious groups in such and such a light. not really very informative or helpful.

47 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Actually the size of the sample with an appropriate sampling methodology is very appropiate and likely very accurate, too.

48 Eric Futrell December 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I want to know how this sampling accurately represents America. I’m not disagreeing with the numbers; I want to understand who was actually, randomly sampled.

I’m not a statistician, but just eyeballing it, it seems like it’s a bit small for the population of the U.S. And I want to know how this survey was done, online and all, and how that randomly represents Americans.

49 bapticus hereticus December 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Fair questions. A good report will have a methods section that provides the information you seek.

50 Jim Pemberton December 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Paul, I agree. Polls can be misleading if the underlying assumptions are not clear or those underlying assumptions are based on a dubious or biased worldview.

Political polls are especially misleading because they are agenda-driven. In other words, the goal is to use the poll to persuade. Therefore, the message is non-negotiable, but the facts of the poll are intentionally obfuscated.

The more accurate polls are done by private commerce entities. It pays to know your target customers. But their goal is to generate effective marketing. As such, the resulting message is pliable.

We shouldn’t follow either method and we shouldn’t read into any poll something that was not intentionally controlled for. We can’t simply ask a few questions we think are clear without asking control questions to clarify. Additionally, we need to be careful that our sample is relatively accurate. It appears that they intended to do so, but who knows? One other thing: There doesn’t seem to be any work by the pollsters to clarify specifically what the sample adults meant by their answers.

So I would need more information before I could arrive at a conclusion.

51 Ed Stetzer December 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Paul wrote, “I’m attempting to respectfully plead with LifeWay Research to research the already established plumb-line we have in a trusted source; ie. the Bible.”

Not really how to respond to that. I cannot find any information on the name “Southern Baptist Convention” in the scriptures. “SBC” is a man-made name so we are asking if it is accomplishing its purpose among men and women.

On the other hand, I’ve written and preached lots on the scriptures. LifeWay publishes thousands of Bible Study resources. But, I lead the LifeWay Research to help Christians know church and culture so they might make biblical decisions in the context where they live.

I get that telling the truth can be controversial in our denomination. But, facts are our friends and we plan to keep telling them.

We believe we can tell the truth and trust God’s people.

God bless,

Ed

52 Dave Miller December 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I appreciate your research. Can you do a study on why more Baptist preachers aren’t Yankee fans? It’s a mystery to me.

53 Doug Hibbard December 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Because most of us love Jesus, Dave. That’s why.

54 Bill Mac December 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

And have souls.

55 Doug Hibbard December 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

And are jealous that we cannot expend millions upon millions to lose in the playoffs.

:)

56 Dave Miller December 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm

liberals

57 Doug Hibbard December 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

There’s no smiley there, so I take that as a personal insult. You can’t be joking since you failed to use proper internet standards of emoticons!!

:)

58 cb scott December 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

“We believe we can tell the truth and trust God’s people.”

That was Ed doing his best R.G. Lee impression: “Trust God and tell the people.”

59 Paul Thompson December 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Ed,
You are right in that the Bible doesn’t have any reference to the names of the SBC. I respect the committed work by you and many at LifeWay Research.

My concerns in this kind of inquiry are…

1) What might God think of the people known as Southern Baptists in our asking man, especially secular man, what they think about us. Is there any direction for us from Scripture that suggest we should conduct surveys to consider what man might think about us. Maybe we can argue for it in a business or philosophical model, but what about from a biblical? (I’m not suggesting that survey work or statistical gathering of data should not be done. I appreciate the findings of the facts. I just reminding myself how misdirecting a survey can be, even if unintentional.)

2) I did not like (my personal opinion) that the survey compared us with the Mormon faith and the Muslim faith. This may make since to do so again in a business since, but to compare the church of the Living God in a survey about favor-ability with these heterodox faiths has me with shock on my face…

3) As I state in my response and in defense of my reasoning here… “I am thankful to God for the heritage I have in the decades of Spirit-led, Bible-believing, God-fearing churchmen, known to the world as Southern Baptists. Not because they were Southern Baptists, but because they loved obeying God rather than pursuing friendship and popularity with the world. Oh Southern Baptists, let us repent and choose the same as David. For God’s mercies are very great! Fear not the polls of man. It was C.S. Lewis who said, “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” The road paved with surveys will crumble when the Maker of Heaven and Earth shakes your opinion. Read surveys like this with extreme caution. Get to the right road soonest. Don’t let your heart be troubled when man thinks less of you than you wish. Rather, lift up your heads for there your “redeemer liveth, and on the earth again shall stand.”

I know that this is a difficult place to express this and difficult to get clarity to what is meant from you and what is implied from me. I am attempting to read with the same kind of grace I hope to be heard in. And accept the same kind of scrutiny of my opinion as I’m so willing to give toward the survey. Thank you for the opportunity to dialog with me on these concerns of mine.

I believe you want Spirit of the Living God to fall upon our land too.

60 Doug Hibbard December 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I’m as much Riley Poole on SBC issues as some of the rest of you, but the release from LWR is not tilted for or against the whole name change thing.

It’s about the perceptions of us as a faith group. None of the questions or data points shared address “If we change our name would it matter to your perception?”

This is strictly about the perception of the group. It is a reasonable assumption that the perception will not change much with a name change. If you start calling us “Pizza Baptists” folks will say “Who?” and the answer will be “Formerly the SBC.”

What you have in this research is answers that say many people view Southern Baptists as a whole, not individual people, but the whole lot of us in an unfavorable light. Many others view us favorably. Now the issue is to get the next level of info in our own spheres of influence: why do people view the Southern Baptists they know, like you or me, the way they do?

Does the liquor store owner view you unfavorably for opposing his permit request? Does the poor family across the street view you unfavorably because the church spends thousands on fluff that could feed them during their unemployed time?

Are you viewed favorably by the political folks you’ve endorsed or viewed favorably because you’re preaching the Gospel?

The study info is a starting point. The question, when you have these facts in hand is: Why? As I said above, some people view us unfavorably because “we” have been jerks: the only Southern Baptists they know are the ones on the news for praying imprecatory prayers about the President or other nonsense that has gone on in our name. Others view us unfavorably because we’ve done what’s right and they don’t like it.

In other places, the favorable view is for us but not for the Gospel: they like the Baptist that cut the tree off the roof after the tornado, but they have no use for the Bible he left behind.

Don’t put more into the statistics than are there–but use what you find. If you find that your sphere of influence hates all things Southern Baptist because they also hate the Bible and the Gospel, then you can’t do much about that. If you find they don’t like Southern Baptists because the church never invited them to a potluck, then you can fix that. Pretty easily, actually.

61 Dr. James Willingham December 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Remember how upset some became with the Apostle Paul? We can expect to have the same responses, when we preach the same messges. Admittedly, we ought not to do anything that would antagonize from a personal angle. On the other hand, if the truth hurts, then it follows that such a pain is a part of the process. Later, the same opponents might well thank us for being faithful. George Washington Gray, the pastor of my grandparents, was not popular, but he was respected. I remember his quavery old voice to this day, quoting Acts 9, saying, “Saul, Saul, Why persecutest thou me?” When I read William Warrne Sweet’s The Story of Religion in American History and his description of the farmer preachers of the Baptists, I thought I was reading a description of Bro. Gray. I marvel at the thought and at the perceptivity of a Methodist Historian so aptly describing the ministers of another denomination. There are still good UM ministers today, though they are few in number or so it seems. I have counseled at least one Wesleyan Methodist couple at the request of their pastor (marriage and family counseling). There are good Arminians out there, and there are bad Calvinists. Judas was as orthodox as any one could want, but he was Satan’s servant. Nothing is ever easy in this sin-cursed world, except sin at the first. Afterwards it proves why it (sin) is a curse.

62 Bart Barber December 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm

When we get polling results showing that a large number of people dislike us, those polling results leave us with nothing but a mystery. The discussion has already acknowledged that fact. We don’t know why there are some people who do not like us. Is it because we are faithful to the truth of the Bible? Is it because we’re just unloveable?

And yet, this much is absolutely certain: If we do remain faithful to the truth of the Bible, we will be unpopular with a large and growing segment of our population. Therefore, if ever we get back polling results saying that the preponderance of people really like us and believe that an SBC church is the church for them, there will be no mystery about that situation. Then we’ll know for certain that we’ve denied Christ in efforts to please men.

63 cb scott December 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Bart,

That was the longest paraphrase of Luke 6:26 I have ever read.

64 Bart Barber December 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm

CB,

My expertise is in crafting the wordiest of things. That’s my spiritual gift.

65 Rob Owens December 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I read Paul’s entire piece and what I don’t get is this…. What’s so confusing about this people? Why are we needing to ask questions like “why would you want to be less favorable than Methodists” and “what do you mean by ‘what do they mean by Americans’”! It’s as simple as this. The Southern Baptist Convention is looking to the opinion of the world, which despite what any survey might say is LOST, to gauge what direction they should go. My question to the SBC is WHO CARES!?!!? Jesus told us the world would hate us for following Him so who really cares what the world thinks?!?! We, as followers of Christ, need to worry about that. Following Christ. If the world looks at us and says, those Christians are soooo stubborn, I never want to be like them, GOOD! God will reach them when God chooses to reach them. We are to live in a manner that is glorifying to God and quit worrying so much about what the world thinks about us and who we are!

I’m sorry that I dont have the Seminary education to come up with all the references markings in church history to solidify my point, but I really don’t think that’s neccessary. I know my Bible and I love my Lord. What the rest of the world does and thinks is not a bother to me!

66 Lydia December 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I would remind everyone who is hinting around that if people like us it means we might be denying Christ……of this in Acts 5:

No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14

We can be highly regarded as decent loving people by unbelievers
and it still mean people will not join us.

67 Bart Barber December 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Lydia,

How long did the popularity of the apostles last among the people of Jerusalem? Stephen found out!

68 cb scott December 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm

So did one of the guys who killed him!

69 Dave Miller December 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Maybe there is a distinction between popularity and favor. Scriptures talks of the disciples enjoying the favor of the people – some sort of respect at seeing the work of God. Popularity is a more modern concept.

If the church walks in integrity and the fullness of the Spirit, it might be expected that there will be some level of favor – even in a sinful world. On the other hand, we can only seek popularity by compromising offensive truths to appeal to sinful people.

70 Lydia December 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I agree, Dave. “Highly regarded” does not mean popularity. And we ARE told to be “blameless”.

And we all know how easy it is for leaders to incite people to action by lies. Stephen stood up to the Pharisees and dared to preach to them. When the times call for it, we have no choice but to “offend” certain people with truth. In that case, ironically, it was the religous leaders of the day they offended with truth.

So it is both. Be blameless but stand up for truth. As far as the SBC goes, we need to pick our truth battles wisely. Such actions as boycotting disney or our focus on alcohol tend to be stands made of straw when put up against the Cross and Resurrection.

71 Max December 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

The Southern Baptist Convention has been the most visible Protestant denomination in America voicing its concerns and convictions about the decaying moral fabric of our land. Religious and secular media have tapped the opinions of SBC leadership on a range of issues. Spokesmen from our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, seminaries, and churches have articulated SBC’s position on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, sexual purity, alcohol and drug addiction, cloning, bioethics, stem cell research, end-of-life issues, and a host of other moral concerns. Why would worldly folks addressing a survey about us respond in a favorable manner?! If/when SBC changes its name, they will rejoice that those unloveable Baptists (who told them the truth in love) went away … until they realize we have simply been re-branded.

72 Lydia December 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Speaking of your grandmother and the one peppermint stick…..When my mom was a kid during the depression it was a big deal for them to receive oranges in their stockings. So, she kept that tradition with us….. which always confused us because we could just go to the fridge and get an orange anytime we wanted. Plus, my mom was anti candy. An original granola mom so we had no goodies in the stocking at all. Just fruit. It got to the point she had to make us take the fruit out of the stockings each year. :o)

73 Paul Thompson December 12, 2011 at 2:06 am

The Acts 15 examination is a strong consideration. “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29 (NASB)

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