CHURCH SWITCHERS, CHANGE AGENTS & AGENDA-DRIVEN SURVEYS
By Paul Proctor
April 11, 2007
According to Audrey Barrick, reporter for The Christian Post, "The top reason adults switch to a new church is to flee their previous church, a recent study found."
Armed with stats from a recent LifeWay Research study, she continues to state the obvious in an article titled: "Most Adults Switch Churches to Flee Former Church." And, after citing numerous reasons and alleged percentages, almost as an afterthought, she finally gets around to the hot button issue - the real reason people are changing churches:
Some church switchers leave because of too many changes in the church.
Apparently it doesn't matter if the troublesome changes were scriptural or not - just that there were too many of them, which reminded me of the 5 part series from Pastors.com titled, "How To Transition an Established Church," by Chuck McAlister, where he carefully points out in Part 4:
This will be, by far, the most controversial part of the transition process. People have strong preferences in regard to worship styles to which they assign spiritual significance. This part of the transition process must be handled delicately over an extended period of time or you could sabotage the whole process� You cannot jerk a transitioning church into a new worship style. You must practice extreme patience to help your church make the necessary change to a worship style that will directly impact those who do not know God.
In the Christian Post article, Ms. Barrick also noted the importance of the change "process:"
LifeWay Vice President Brad Waggoner found the study results encouraging� Waggoner noted, "A common mistake of pastors, staff or even lay leaders in the church is attempting to initiate change without a clear understanding of the process one should follow."
And what "process" would that be, Mr. Waggoner? - Chuck McAlister's frog-in-the-kettle technique from Rick Warren's website?
Speaking of Rick Warren - what might be more telling than anything, is the fact that his infamous name never comes up in the article, when he is probably more responsible than anyone for changing today's Church. If too many changes are causing people to leave, why didn't Barrick mention The Purpose Driven Life or Warren's 40 Days of Purpose program in her report - especially since Warren is a regular contributor to The Christian Post. But then, maybe that's why his name is conspicuously absent.
You see, if you read Barrick's follow-up on the subject titled, "Most Church Switchers Choose Non-Traditional Worship," you'll notice a bias beginning to show.
Here's how that article begins:
More than one in five adults who switch to a new church move away from traditional worship, a study revealed.
Did you catch that?
First she says only "one of five" (that's 20%) "move away from traditional worship" - then she says MOST do not end up "attending traditional services," suggesting the majority go contemporary. Now, which is it? It can't be both 20% and "most." But, unless you catch that subtle contradiction, you're left believing "traditional" is history.
Of course, Warren is not mentioned in this article either, but more importantly, how can anyone choose a traditional church when there are so few left to join? With the help of none other than LifeWay Christian Resources, The Purpose Driven Life became a manically marketed monster that virtually swallowed up the Church of the free world leaving only a comparatively few traditional churches in its wake - so, what choice do Christians really have anymore unless of course they go home and worship there?
Maybe LifeWay considers staying home switching to non-traditional worship too.
"Clearly, selecting a new church with a more contemporary worship style is a current trend," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, in the report. "These changes are intentional, as indicated by eighty percent finding worship style an important factor in selecting a new church."
See, I have a problem with this idea of contemporary worship being considered a "trend," considering it has been so heavily promoted by those with a vested interest in change. In other words: Are these "intentional" changes the cause or the effect? And what role has LifeWay played in this alleged "trend" toward change?
If a record promoter repeatedly pays radio stations around the country to play certain new songs over the air until they climb the charts and become big hits, has the system been undermined at the expense of the listener? And should the popularity or "success" of such songs be considered a legitimate trend in listener taste? In the music business, buying radio play is called "payola" - and it's illegal for reasons I don't think need to be explained here.
Frankly, I have to question the overall objectivity and legitimacy of the LifeWay "study," because, as I recall, the last time I entered one of their retail outlets looking for a book written by noted Warren critic, John MacArthur, I had to walk around their Purpose Driven Life display near the front door just to get to anything else in the store. It took awhile, but I finally found one or two copies of MacArthur's latest buried behind the books of others as if they were ashamed of him or something. I might add, it took the assistance of a store employee to locate them - and even she had no idea who John MacArthur was. In fact, I had to repeat his name once or twice before she could begin searching for his book. And, none of his earlier works were visible anywhere either. I guess he's just not what they'd call "an agent of change."
Now, having said that, earlier in the year I went into that same LifeWay store with my wife who happened to be looking for something new to read at the time. A friend of ours from church, who worked there, could simply not shut up about this fabulous new book by Pastor Rick Warren called, "The Purpose Driven Life." Out of an entire store, containing thousands of books, his was apparently the only one she could bring herself to recommend. It was like the woman was hired to do nothing but sell that book! We kept telling her "no thanks" but she kept plugging it like that was all they had for sale!
So, is LifeWay Christian Resources really the place to go to get an honest assessment of why people are leaving their churches today? - an organization that has aggressively promoted changing the church at every turn while one of their own research directors readily admits that too many changes have been made?
I mean, LifeWay's own Vice President was quoted in the first article as saying:
"Let me insert upfront that change is unavoidable and even necessary for continued church effectiveness. However, the manner in which change is approached is crucial."
Now THAT'S what I'd call "intentional." This doesn't sound like someone accepting change - it sounds more like someone insisting on it. Furthermore, how can people leaving their churches in unprecedented numbers be considered "effectiveness" unless their disgruntled departure is your objective and agenda?
Barrick closes the second article with this about LifeWay's study:
Results are based on 415 surveys conducted among church switchers whose latest church change was for reasons other than a residential move.
Well, my Reader's List is quite a bit larger than 415 people, many of whom are themselves "church switchers;" so I think I'll ask them and any other evangelical evacuees reading this commentary, to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me, in just a couple of sentences, the primary reason they left their former church and if they actively sought out and ended up in a more contemporary fellowship.
Again, only two sentences, please!
Don't need to hear the whole story for my little survey - just the main reason you left.
Something tells me my findings will be vastly different from LifeWay's.
Now, why do you suppose that is?
I guess I'm just not what they'd call "an agent of change" either.
"Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully�" - Jeremiah 48:10
� 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.
church switchers leave because they are unhappy with changes in the overall
direction of the church," said Scott McConnell, associate director of