CHURCH EXIT & New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers #LifeWay

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my consulting on church change and church revitalization, I sometimes encounter a judicatory leader or a parent church that will want to change another church’s theology. But, research indicates that you must be very careful in doing so.

I have observed that churches many times grow around a specific theological viewpoint. Sometimes that theological view is in error, unorthodox, schismatic or heretical. In those circumstances it must be changed.

But in my experience I have also seen churches that, while they may have primarily orthodox beliefs, have a unique view on (what John Wesley would call) nonessential theological points. These might include issues such as charismatic gifts, healing, modes of baptism, etc.

In such latter circumstances, the research cited below indicates that we should move cautiously when changing a theological perspective if it is not an essential orthodox belief … or church exit might occur.

Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

Don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers
Image: via LifeWay Research

… Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

Churchgoers stay put

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

“Most church members have been at their church longer than their pastor,” said McConnell.

Read more at …

CHRISTIAN & New book looks at the many varied ways the label has been applied in the last 150 years.

“What Does It Mean to Be Christian in America?” by Eric Miller, Washington Univeristy is St. Louis, 6/19/18

…In his new book, Christian: The Politics of a Word in America, historian Matthew Bowman documents a few of the many forms that Christianity has assumed over the past 150 years. Beginning just after the Civil War and working forward to the rise of Donald Trump, Bowman demonstrates how the faith has been claimed and counter-claimed by a wide variety of American actors, lending itself to a fascinating array of campaigns and causes, and always revising itself along the way.

Bowman is associate professor of history at Henderson State University. His previous books include The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith and The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism. Eric C. Miller spoke with Bowman about the project over the phone. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

R&P: What is a Christian in America?

MB: I argue that there is no single definition of that word. Instead, Christianity can be understood as an essentially contested concept—an abstract notion like justice or art that is by its very nature disputed because there is no single authority to render a definitive judgment.

Throughout American history, Christianity has been endlessly disputed and, by virtue of that disputation, has injected a great deal of dynamism into American politics and society. Paradoxically, by lending itself to so much appropriation and contestation, it has helped inspire religious, social, and political pluralism in the United States—which is not the way Americans are accustomed to thinking about the role of Christianity in their society.

R&P: What is Christian republicanism?

MB: Christian republicanism refers to one way in which Americans have defined what Christianity is and what implications it has for American politics and society. It derives from American Protestantism and associates Christianity with two essential elements.

The first of these elements is individual liberty. Protestants have long stressed individual autonomy and the importance of an individual encounter with God and Jesus Christ for salvation. In the American context particularly, that notion has influenced Americans’ political emphasis on autonomy and personal liberty.

It’s tempered, though, by the second element, which is the emphasis on virtue. This is owed in part to the traditional Protestant understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but it’s also derived from the early American admiration for classical societies like the Greeks and the Romans. The Roman writers that the American founders were reading emphasized that a self-governing society requires a virtuous citizenry. Christianity provided an effective means for promoting civic virtue because of its particularly Protestant emphasis on character and moral behavior.

This way of thinking about Christianity has been common—though not uncontested—throughout American history. It has taken different forms at different times in different places and been spoken of in a variety of different ways, but the presumed relationship between Christianity and American democratic government has been widely present since the founding.

R&P: The Christian republicanism that you document is very white and very Western—it arises in Europe and culminates in the triumph of “Western Civilization.” How have African American Christians responded to this standard Christian story?

MB: At points, many African Americans have seized upon Christian republican ideology, asserted their faith in it, and then used it to attack white Americans’ complicity in and complacency with slavery, segregation, and racism. These African Americans have argued that, for Americans to live up to the ideals of Christian republicanism—including liberty, autonomy, and virtue—slavery and racism and injustice must be rejected.

Read more at …

CHURCH HISTORY & New #StanfordUniv map shows land & sea travel routes of early church w/ estimates of travel times

by Walter Scheidel and Elijah Meeks, the ORBIS Project, Stanford University,

…The Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents….

For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

See the map here …

CAMPUS & More missional ideas from my multi-campus church tour.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/17/18.

Today I’m analyzing a campus of #NorthviewChurch in Westfield, IN. As you know I’m often disappointed with how venues and campuses create a disconnected and inauthentic feel to their satellite locations. And this is never more true than during a video sermon.

#NorthviewChurch avoids thus misstep and fosters the feel of a live presence by having a screen on a stage that creates an image that is life-sized (not too big or too small) of the preacher on the stage. In fact, from the back of the auditorium (where I was sitting on this busy Father’s Day) it almost looked like the preacher was live.

This requires:

  • A middle camera that does not change perspective during the sermon. The same shot stays on the stage, creating the feel of a live presence. The side screens however (where the lyrics for the songs are projected) can be more of a closeup image and can often change perspective. However, the central camer which is creating the feel of a live presence of the preacher should not change shots.
  • The screen on the stage sits at floor level. This gives the impression that the preacher is speaking live on the stage and at its center.
  • The edge of the screen is black and the stage area behind the screen is dark. This adds to the feel that you are not looking at a screen but at a person that is live on the stage.
  • The sound emulates from the screen area. Some venues that have speaker arrays hanging from the ceiling may need to adjust the speakers to foster the feel is the voice emulating from the stage
  • As with most campus visits, the announcements, worship, etc. works e live.


CHURCH PLANTING & Least livable: 50 worst US cities to reside in. Time For #ChurchPlanters to step up to the challenge?

by Samuel Stebbens and Evan Comen, USA Today, 6/13/18.

…Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.

24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.

Read the list here:

CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH & A review by Jim Herbert,

York, PA, 5/8/18.

“Cure for the Common Church” is a practical guide to help churches confront their unhealthy ways. Again, I like the way it was written. The book was not written in linear way, rather a mosaic approach that allows you to read and study based on the need. One chapter of each of the four sections talks about the problem and the second chapter of each section deals with the solutions. I will highlight several points under the four areas (Grow Out, Grow Small, Grow Learners and Grow New).

Grow Out

• The gravitational pull for every church is to grow inward. The book lays out four traps that causes this to happen.

• It is interesting to think about how we got here! I believe this problem is timeless. It happens naturally because it’s human nature. We like our worlds small and controllable. So, it takes a lot of leadership to balance the community between outward and inward.

• Balancing volunteer hours between inward and outward focus is a great way to measure. It’s a practical way of knowing how the church is trending.

Grow Small

• The other tension that churches deal with is combatting the attractional element of church. We all know that there has to be an attraction, but we spend an awful amount of time looking at ourselves in the “church mirror” and not trusting the attractional element of God’s presence.

• I love the approach of focusing on people not things, leaders not programs. Setting a structure and continually focusing on a fluid process of engaging people in smaller settings is a lot of work. But, if we can get our best people involved and engaged in this area we may find a greater health in our churches.

• Studying history may give us answers for today and going forward. The book mentioned the Wesleyan movement and how John Wesley effectively developed a discipleship process that grounded people in their faith. I’m sure a dominant reason for its success was the people that helped lead it. A good curriculum was helpful, but the ones leading it was the key…I’m sure.

• Using the UP, IN, OUT approach is excellent. I love Breen’s approach to discipleship. Missionalizing groups is an excellent approach to outreach since it keeps it in the hands of the people and not programized.

Grow Learners

• The “disciple” thing has often been the bugaboo for churches. Understanding what a disciple is and what a disciple does has kept us at a standstill for decades if not centuries! Sure, we have had periods where we have figured it out, and yes there have been great leaders who have been able to drill down to its core. But for most of my

lifetime this issue has alluded us (me).

• I appreciate the way the book has used the word “learn” as an acronym to frame the discussion. Again, the key is in the environment and not as much the content. In the

past we have focused so much on content and missed the element of community.

• The other thing I see is how the book resourced the three primary verbs used in the Great Commission. The words “Go, Baptizing and Teaching” bring focus to the discipleship activity. We then can frame our discipleship process around those three primary actions.

• I do believe healthy communities are reproducible. The attraction lies in the relationships not as much in the content.

Grow New

• The whole “grow new” message is emphasized by focusing on the intention. Therefore, it’s important to define what it means to be “new”. Often time the “newness” approach is centered around an outward approach. This is not sustainable. Newness through transformation is a completely different approach. This approach deals with the heart first, then works its way outward.

• I really liked how the book focused on the pivot point of spiritual transformation. It is the balance between the outward and inward focuses.

• Regarding spiritual transformation, having a solid grasp of the transformation process is critical. The Gospel message and journey is not as linear as we want to make it. Walking with people through their transformation is very important, people know when it’s a bait and switch. Looking for people to change so they can come to our church is selfish and self-absorbed. If we value the transformational process, we will be able to rejoice when the change actually happens. They may not attend our church long term but would’ve had the chance to be involved in seeing someone’s life transformed.


There is much more to unpack, but not enough time. I would highly recommend this book for church leadership teams. It’s practical and informative.

CAREER TRANSITIONS & Why Would People Consider Quitting Their Jobs, Exactly? Gallup Research Sums Up the Entire Reason in 1 Sentence.

Commentary by Dr  Whitesel: While preparing a new Doctor of Ministry course for Fuller Theological Seminary on interim/transitional pastoral ministry, I am researching why pastors leave churches. The article below throws light on this from the Gallup organization and suggests ways to retain talented leaders. Read the article and then find more insights at this accompanying article: CAREER TRANSITIONS & Why Do Employees Quit Their Managers? Here’s the No. 1 Reason in a Short Sentence.

“Why Would People Consider Quitting Their Jobs, Exactly? Gallup Research Sums Up the Entire Reason in 1 Sentence“ by Michael Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 5/14/18.

In 2017, Gallup released the third iteration of their infamous workplace report, the State of the American Workplace.

Using data collected from more than 195,600 U.S. employees in 2015 and 2016, Gallup asked employees to indicate how important certain job attributes are when considering whether to jump ship and take another gig with a different organization.

The top factor in the minds of most employees across the country? Gallup summarizes it in one sentence: The ability to do what they do best.

When they don’t get to experience this regularly, they exit early. It seems like common sense. Shouldn’t every employer or manager allow for valued workers to feel this way about their work every day? Common sense, yes; common practice, no…

The “why” behind the need to ‘do what they do best.’

Sixty percent of employees — male and female of all generations — say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them. How do you bring that into fruition?

Employees do their best in roles that enable them to showcase and integrate their biggest strengths: talent (the natural capacity for excellence); skills (what they can do); and knowledge (what they know).

And companies are leaving money on the table by not recognizing these strengths beyond a job description, and how it all translates to high performance.

People love to use their unique talents, skills, and knowledge. But most conventional managers don’t know what those things truly are.

The best leaders will leverage close relationships with employees by finding out what their strengths are, and bringing out the best in their employees.

In fact, when managers help employees develop through their strengths and natural talents, they are more than twice as likely to engage their team members.

Read more at …

Soeaking hashtags: FullerDMin