Friday, December 05, 2008

Ed Stetzer responds to David Allen

In my earlier critique of David Allen's review of Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, I did not mention his criticism of the research presented by Ed Stetzer on the growth of evangelical Calvinism within the SBC. Dr. Allen cites many problems with the research and the interpretations that were given to it.

Yesterday, Dr. Stetzer responded to Dr. Allen with a lengthy explanation about the research methodology and why the results should not be dismissed out of hand. Dr. Stetzer writes,
Over the years, we have learned a few things about research in SBC life. Research tends to get people in our denomination excited. Many people quote it, most like it, and some despise it. People will quote and misquote statistics regularly to prove or disprove whatever matters to them. Simply put, we are an enthusiastic, passionate, and often imprecise people when it comes to church research.

As such, when we do research, it gets a lot of debate and discussion. We do not mind at all--and sometimes we read a comment and think, "Good point!" or "We should have thought of that." As such, we very infrequently respond to inappropriate uses or criticisms of our research.

However, I do see a pattern developing. It appears that when one of the faculty members at one of our seminaries disagrees with the results of our research, they write a rebuttal or a criticism. We actually don't mind a (good) rebuttal and questioning the wording of questions is normal and expected. However, it does seem that the faculty at Southwestern is making a habit of taking time away from their important tasks to critique our research. I thought it would be wise for me to take this opportunity to respond in what I hope is a gracious way.
Dr. Stetzer's response is indeed gracious...and convincing. Read it here.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ACP statistics released for 2007

Chris Turner, Media Relations Manager for LifeWay, has issued a report on the 2007 Annual Church Profile report for the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of the numbers are alarming enough to cause Ed Stetzer to say that "For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline."

Stetzer has some insightful commentary on what the numbers indicate and he has some good suggestions on what those of us who are committed to laboring within the SBC should do. Three issues that the ACP call us to note, according to Stetzer, are, 1) the loss of SBC leaders-- especially ethnic and younger leaders who are abandoning the SBC; 2) the public infighting that characterizes so much of the SBC culture; 3) "Our loss of focus on the Gospel." Stezter writes, "We must recover a gospel centrality and cooperate in proclaiming that gospel locally and globally." Amen.

No doubt there will be various interpretations of these numbers over the next several weeks leading up to the annual meeting in Indianapolis. It is impossible to say exactly what they mean with any certainty. Baptisms are down to the lowest number since 1987. Total membership is down. Typical Sunday morning worship attendance is slightly up.

Those who lament the baptism statistics do so because they believe that the reported number of baptisms is a true indicator of the effectiveness of our evangelism. Where the Gospel is clearly understood and central to the evangelistic enterprise, that is a reasonable belief. In a day, however, when the Gospel has been lost or at least marginalized, that belief is debatable.

Regardless of how you interpret the numbers, they serve as a reminder of how desperately we need reformation and revival in our churches. Surely no one who loves the SBC would dispute that. And, surely, no one would take that as an expression of disloyalty to all things SBC. Time for denominational posturing and boasting is long past. It is time for humility and integrity.

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