Monday, June 30, 2008

Ed Stetzer and LifeWay Research Say Pew Research Got it Wrong

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 6/27/08 – In the second major release from their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Forum states that "70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation say that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life." The detailed findings (available at: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports) indicate that 57 percent of those attending evangelical churches also agree that many religions can lead to eternal life. Only 36 percent chose the alternative, "My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life."

However, some have expressed concerns about the way the question was asked. "The Pew Forum accurately reported the question they asked and accurately reported the responses they received, but I do not think that led to an accurate portrayal of evangelicals," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Terry Mattingly of the Scripps Howard News Service and the GetReligion.org blog wrote, "I am being a bit picky here, but I suspect that if you asked a lot of people that Pew Forum question today, they would think of the great world religions. But many Christians would think more narrowly than that. Not all. Not many, perhaps. But some. What is your religion? I’m a Baptist, a Nazarene, an Episcopalian, a Catholic. Can people outside of your religion be saved? Of course. This is not the same thing, for many, as saying that they believe that salvation is found outside faith in Jesus Christ."

"I believe the Pew study is directionally right in pointing out that a surprisingly small number of self-identified American Christians believe in the exclusivity of Christ as a means of salvation, and therefore, getting into heaven," explained Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.

"But the way they worded their question may have had some impact; many people think of ‘denomination’ when they hear ‘religion,’ so it isn’t that surprising that a Lutheran could think a Methodist would also go to heaven or a Catholic could think that a Protestant would go to heaven," said McConnell.

Stetzer cautioned, "When we define evangelicals as not just those who sit in pews but who agree with certain evangelical beliefs, we find a different picture than was widely reported in the news about the recent Pew study."


Read the full press release: Are Evangelicals Really Universalists

Simple Church Author's New Book & Event: Essential Church

I featured this in my newsletter (Pastors Today) but wanted to make sure those of you who follow the blog saw it. I've also blogged about Essential Church? before but I have added an extended preview download of the book in our online catalog.

Download a 28-Page Sample of Essential Church ...

Here's an overview of the book:

"Why do so many young adults (ages 18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back?" This important question is examined and duly answered in Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts, a follow-up to Thom S. Rainer's best-selling Simple Church co-written this time with his son, research expert Sam Rainer (check out Sam's excellent blog Church Forward).

Essential Church? is based on a study of one-thousand so-called "church dropouts" who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with "losing their religion" and more about the desire for a community that isn't made stale by simply maintaining the status quo. In turn, Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer offer churches four concrete solutions toward making their worship community an essential part these young people's lives again:
  • Simplify - develop a clear structure and process for making disciples.
  • Deepen - provide strong biblical teaching and preaching.
  • Expect - let members know the need for commitment to the congregation.
  • Multiply - emphasize evangelism, outward focus, and starting new churches.
Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer will also be leading a strategic retreat experience (February 26-28, 2009 at the Ridgecrest Conference Center) to bring pastors and church staff members together to explore the Essential Church message - reclaiming a generation of church dropouts.

Get Essential Church Retreat details now ...

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to Respond When Your Church is Resistant to Change

I've just posted a new article by Bob Sheffield. In this article he says that when your church is resistant to change there are congregational, personal, cultural, as well as fear / faith issues that need to be examined and considered. In the article he offers a list of things to consider for each.

He then offers five ways to deal with a church resistant to change:
  1. Properly assess the church’s attitude toward change.

  2. Honestly evaluate your own motivation in suggesting change.

  3. Practice good change agent principles.

  4. Educate yourself in the skills of a good change agent by attending conferences and reading appropriate resources.

  5. Remember that your role in the change God wants to bring in the church you pastor may be that of starting a change process that someone else completes.
Read How to Respond When Your Church is Resistant to Change

This is the fourth in a series of five articles dealing with the top five causes of forced terminations as identified in the 2006 Forced Termination survey.

You may access the first three articles here ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Howard Dayton: Downturn or Recession and How it Affects Your Church Family

Howard Dayton, co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries, has an excellent article in Baptist Press today addressing the crisis that many churches are facing as a result of the current US and global economy.

In this article he deals with the issue of people cutting back giving as well as the biblical encouragement to counter the fears they are facing. He ends the article with four steps to follow in order to trust God with the present and the future.

Read Howard Dayton: Downturn or recession?

Also, here are several articles in our Leading / Administration Section of LifeWay.com/Pastor that will help you as you deal with the challenging economy and it's impact on your church finances.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Church Art Festivals, Reclaiming the Art World for Christ


I was intrigued several months ago when my wife told me she was entering two of her paintings in an art show sponsored by First Baptist, Nashville. I've heard many church leaders express a longing to reclaim the arts for Christ including music and motion pictures but had not heard of a church sponsored art festival.

At the art show I met Bob Snider who helped the church organize this outreach event. He's been helping churches do this around the country so I asked him to share how you could do this in your community.

Read Church Art Festivals, Reclaiming the Art World for Christ

Top 5 Reasons for Pastoral Terminations, Part 3, Poor People Skills

I've just posted the latest in a series of five articles on Pastor Terminations. This article deals with the sensitive issue of a pastor's people skills. Bob Sheffield defines people skills as “the ability of a pastor to minister effectively to and through people.”

Sheffield shares four reasons he believes pastors struggle in relating to their church family and follows them with six practical tips for better people skills. I've added links in the article to other resources that I believe will be helpful.

Read the Top 5 Reasons for Pastoral Terminations, Part 3, Poor People Skills

And, if you missed the first two in this series ....

Monday, June 9, 2008

YouVersion.com for Your Mobile Phone, Access 14 Bible Translations

This is a picture of my phone accessing the new YouVersion mobile (access it on your phone at m.youversion.com ). I regularly use YouVersion.com to access scripture when I am doing sermon preparation on my MacBookPro or on another computer that does not have my Bible Navigator software. I love having quick access to 14 versions including my favorite, the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

So, I was stoked to see the release of a mobile version. If you have internet access on your phone, you can go to http://m.youversion.com/ and access all 14 Bible translations. You can search by verse as well as by search term. Also notice that you have access to a daily Bible reading.

If you would like to learn more about how to use it you can view the blog post titled YouVersion now available for your Mobile Device!

Also, if you interested in using the regular online Bible go to YouVersion.com.

Barna Says November Election Is Obama's to Lose

I was very surprised this morning to see The Barna Report's view that, "Unless Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama commits political suicide between now and election day, the Senator from Illinois is in a very comfortable position to win the November race against Republican challenger John McCain."

This is another quote from their website, "A new survey from The Barna Group, exploring the voting preferences of registered voters who are likely to vote in the upcoming election, found that not even the existing strong support of the evangelical community will be enough to lift the Republican hopeful over the top."

You'll want to read the full article to view what Barna calls, "six indicators of the strength of the Obama candidacy," along with "factors which could facilitate a victory by Senator McCain in November." View the full report, November Election Is Obama’s to Lose.

As the election heats up, I believe Pastors and other church leaders must become informed about where the candidates stand so they will be able to help the individuals in their church family as they deal with these critical issues.

One of the good sources of information on the candidates as well as very practical guidance for what pastors and churches can and can't do legally when it comes to the election is ivotevalues.com. Here are the specific articles I have found helpful:
They also have an excellent Election Resource Page for Pastors including links to "resources on federal tax regulations pertaining to section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations and political activity."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Parable of the Soils in action on Maui, How God Speaks

I began serving as the pastor of Lahaina Baptist Church in December of 1994 (and was there until 2003). It was a unique congregation in a unique setting. Lahaina is located on the West Side of the Island of Maui in the state of Hawaii.

Lahaina is a tourist magnet with 5 championship golf courses and numerous resorts and world-class beaches. So, on Sunday mornings at Lahaina Baptist Church our worship service would include about 60 % locals and about 40 % tourists.

Pretty soon after I arrived I notice a pattern at the end of the worship services. I stood at one end of the open-air building and shook hands with the guests and they exited the building. Almost every Sunday one or more of these tourists would look me in the eye and tell me, “Craig, God spoke to me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.” Sometimes they would say it had been a year, or even 10 years.

At first, I thought it was my brilliant preaching, but I knew from deeper conversations that these men and women were active members of strong churches with strong Bible teaching ministries and preachers who proclaimed God’s Word clearly and faithfully.

So I began asking God to show me the reason for this unusual work that He was doing. After a year or so I was reading the Parable of Soils (Matthew 13:1-21) and I feel God showed me that this was the key to understanding it.

When these tourists were sitting in our open-air church building in this tropical paradise, God was helping them be free from these barriers to hearing God. For many, their spiritual ears had been closed to hearing from God because they were angry at someone in their own church family, or angry at someone on their church staff, or even the pastor, or the worship leader. But here at Lahaina Baptist they hadn’t been there long enough to get angry at anyone.

For others, their spiritual ears had been closed to hearing from God because they were overcome by the cares of the world whether is was work, or money, or what they were going to serve for lunch that Sunday. But here at Lahaina Baptist they were on vacation in paradise and they were going out to eat after church and didn’t have to think about their work or whatever had distracted them.

And, God was able to get through to them and speak His clear Word into their hearts. My question is, can you allow God to speak to you today, can you ask Him to forgive you for you closed heart or closed mind for the grudges you have held on to. Can you be obedient to God’s call ...

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7 (HCSB)

Friday, June 6, 2008

LifeWay Research: Views of homosexuality and its impact on outreach

"Americans hold contradictory opinions on the issue of homosexuality, including whether homosexual behavior is sinful. A similar percentage of Americans consider homosexual behavior sinful to those who do not, and neither view gains a majority, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The study also found that Americans’ views of homosexuality impacts their openness to participation in a church."

Holding opposing views, 39 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of Protestants and 79 percent of born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants said they do believe homosexual behavior is sinful. Among the sample of all Americans, 48 percent said they believe homosexual behavior is a sin.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans said their decision to visit or join a church would be positively affected if that congregation taught homosexual behavior is a sin. Among Catholics, that number dropped to 23 percent. Thirty-eight percent of Protestants and 50 percent of born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants said they would be more likely to visit or join a church if it taught homosexual behavior is sinful.

Thirty-two percent of Americans – almost one in three – said their decision to visit or join a church would be negatively affected if that congregation taught homosexual behavior is sinful. Among Catholics and Protestants, that number is 27 percent. It dropped further to 21 percent among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants. Among those who never attend any place of worship, 49 percent said this teaching would negatively affect their decision to visit or join a church.

"Those statistics should give church leaders pause and lead them to strike an important but delicate balance between demonstrating Christ’s love for all people while still presenting a biblical teaching about homosexual behavior," said LifeWay Research Director Ed Stetzer.

Read the full article on LifeWay.com

Thursday, June 5, 2008

LifeWay Research: Global Warming, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Stem Cell Research, and the Presidential Election

"A majority of Southern Baptist Convention pastors believes the media have overstated the threat of global warming and that SBC resolutions have not been "too timid" when they addressed global warming, according to a recent study on global issues by LifeWay Research."

"The study also found that there is a contrast between the opinions of SBC pastors and average Americans on several national issues including global warming, physician-assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research.

Read the full report from LifeWay Research

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Pastor at Heart, The 'How To' of Pastoral Care

I posted this article on Monday in the Pastor's Area of LifeWay.com. It's part of the section that deals with Pastoral Care and Counseling. With the many things that compete for our time as pastors I think we may feel the most guilt about this area.

Ken Gosnell, one of my favorite writers, is the author of this article. He uses PASTOR as an acrostic to spell out several practical ways to minister to your church family and model ministry to your leaders.
  • Put people before tasks.
  • Accept others faults and failures.
  • Schedule time to renew.
  • Tell people about the real struggles that you face.
  • Open your heart and listen to people’s stories.
  • Remember significant events in people’s lives.
Read the details about each one in the article now ...