As a frequent critic of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am sometimes asked if I ever say anything nice about those who now control the ever-narrowing denominational body. Not often, but I will when praise is deserved.
LifeWay Research deserves such praise.
Directed by missiologist and researcher Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research provides a clear, unbiased picture of opinions on subjects that relate to church and denominational ministry.
For the last few years there has been ongoing debate over the rise of Calvinism in the SBC. The inaugural research project by LifeWay gave data to inform the conversation.
The research verified what many perceived: that SBC pastors, by an overwhelming majority, do not consider themselves to be five-point Calvinists. But the number is rising due to the teaching of Calvinism at some SBC seminaries, especially Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Al Mohler is president.
The research revealed that while 10 percent of SBC pastors overall consider themselves five-point Calvinists, more recent grads do so nearly three times (29 percent) more.
In a more recent study, LifeWay Research verified that an overwhelming majority (72 percent) of Americans believe in God, yet many don’t go to church. The reasons: The same percentage (72) said the “church is full of hypocrites” and 44 percent affirmed that “Christians get on my nerves.”
(Had I been interviewed, I would want the option for church-going believers to also affirm that often “Christians get on my nerves” too.)
The good news, as Stetzer noted on CNN and through other news outlets interested in the data, is that 78 percent of those surveyed said they would be open to talking with someone about their Christian beliefs — presumably if we can do it without getting on their nerves.
Good solid data helps churches and individuals make the needed changes to be more effective in a changing world. That’s good stuff.
With all the spin that comes from the SBC public relations machine (including and especially Baptist Press), the kind of honest information from LifeWay Research is even more significant and appreciated.