OUR SURVEY SAID!
By Paul Proctor
April 18, 2007
Last week in my NewsWithViews column, I responded to the curious claims of a Christian Post reporter about alleged survey findings she highlighted from a LifeWay study in a couple of recent articles titled, "Most Adults Switch Churches to Flee Former Church." and "Most Church Switchers Choose Non-Traditional Worship," where she concluded that "More than one in five adults who switch to a new church move away from traditional worship..." and that "�most do not end up attending traditional services as they formerly did."
Knowing that this didn't sound right, I invited readers to email me personally with "the primary reason they left their former church and if they actively sought out and ended up in a more contemporary fellowship," to see for myself if the results would be anywhere near those cited in the Christian Post.
Now, before I go any further, let me just say, I don't put much stock in polls or surveys because they often promote consensus and group-think - teaching or implying that the herd is always right and that because of this we should follow wherever they lead - which is simply not the case. Jesus, as most of you know, preached the "narrow way" to eternal life as opposed to the "broad way," which, alongside the Word of God, renders consensus corrupt and therefore dangerous. So, regardless of the outcome of my little exercise here, the findings of this traditional versus contemporary survey are not to determine which is right or wrong - they are only to demonstrate how drastically different the results of one survey are from another. Absolute truth is found in scripture, not in surveys, opinions or polls.
I specifically asked that all "church switchers" who emailed me, keep their replies to only two-sentences - which most did. Others simply could not contain their anguish and frustration - elaborating at length about how they were shunned and abused at their former churches and what their former pastors, teachers, leaders and brethren refused to hear or address regarding drastic changes implemented there. I went ahead and logged their responses anyway because I understand in a very personal way what many of them have lived through - having had their concerns ignored - their motives questioned - their reputations trashed and, in some cases, their long-standing memberships revoked, simply because they spoke up and questioned the pastor and/or their church's new agenda.
I would like to take this opportunity to also apologize to each and every one of them who wrote in for not offering more encouragement and sympathy in my brief replies to their sends. Hopefully I can do that at another time. The influx of email was such that virtually all I could do for days was read each one sent - cut & paste their comments to a Word document - and then reply with: "Thanks for responding!" or something similar. I was a man on a mission and simply did not have the time or help to do much of anything else and get these results published - which many have apparently been waiting for, even though I never really claimed I'd reveal them.
Nevertheless, at this writing, I have received and read well in excess of 500 emailed responses to my article from Christians around the world - over 436 of which were from "church switchers" who took time to answer my two questions. Since I can't submit an article to NewsWithViews.com for publication that is 61 pages and over 26,000 words long, because few would want to read it, I decided to instead share only the two emails I received from readers who seemed to prefer contemporary over traditional, even though their answers were somewhat vague and incomplete with respect to my questions.
That's right - there were only two who suggested they favored contemporary over traditional and only one of them said they left.
Here's what they wrote:
1. I became a Christian in 70 through contemporary youth worship, music and services...as a result that is where I am comfortable and seem in my element. Warren and his book or anyone else had nothing to do with what I prefer in a worship service, just the complete freedom to worship God in praise and song.... which you cannot experience in a traditional service with please stand and sing number 315 in your hymn book etc.
It should be noted that I did receive one email from a "church switcher" who wrote to say they had left both traditional and contemporary churches over the years for a variety of reasons - and there were several who left their churches for one reason or another but never actually mentioned whether they were traditional or contemporary. In addition, I did not define what "traditional" or "contemporary" was. After all, one man's "traditional" can occasionally be another man's "contemporary." I'm just using the same general terms that LifeWay and The Christian Post postulated.
However, according to the emails I received, the overwhelming majority of "church switchers" let me know that they had left to find a more traditional church because of three things:
1. Rick Warren's teachings and growing influence at their former church.
There were also numerous people who made it clear that because they could not find a traditional church or one anywhere in their vicinity that wasn't Purpose Driven, they were not going to church anymore or were simply worshipping and studying the Bible at home.
Other reasons given for their leaving included: former churches had gone liberal, seeker sensitive, CGM, church growth methodology, Willow Creek, Emergent, new age, Alpha, Prayer of Jabez, teaching heresy, playing loud music, rock and roll, preaching watered-down message, not being fed spiritually, the Word of God was replaced with jokes, stories, drama, psychology and social gospel, the full counsel of God was not being preached, the doctrine was not sound, unbiblical teachings prevailed in Sunday school, pastor preached from The Message Bible, no sense of reverence, pastor preached topically rather than "expositionally," no hymns were sung, only praise ditties performed, depravity and debt-heavy building programs ensued, etc, etc, etc� many things I personally believe are directly related to the top three reasons.
So, as I predicted in last week's article, my findings were vastly different from those reported in the Christian Post. This effort of mine was obviously not a comprehensive or in-depth survey or study - just a couple of plain and simple questions posed on the internet to anyone from anywhere who cared to respond.
And what a response I got!
Still, nagging questions remain:
Why did The Christian Post leave Rick Warren and "The Purpose Driven Life" completely out of their articles on this highly controversial subject when he is such a big part of it and is a regular on their own front page? And, why did so many who wrote me state or suggest in one way or another, a preference for the traditional - most of whom said they fled newly-transformed contemporary churches for more traditional ones - while The Christian Post reported most "church switchers" are going the other way?
Interesting, isn't it?
I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
"But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." - 2nd Timothy 3:13
� 2007 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
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Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print.
E-Mail: [email protected]�
at this writing, I have received and read well in excess of 500 emailed
responses to my article from Christians around the world - over 436 of
which were from "church switchers" who took time to answer my two questions.