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Southern Religion

Everyone gains from unspinning the LifeWay/NAMB evangelism survey

Spinning a survey which shows evangelism is surpassingly difficult, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) both say “most people would attend [church] if invited in the right manner.”

North American Mission Board

The sometimes credibility-challenged NAMB commissioned the survey in preparation for its national “God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS)” evangelism drive, to be launched in 2010.

Buried in the body of the “spun” NAMB summary is a plain statement that the survey of more than 15,000 adults in December 12-22, 2008, found that “personal invitations from family members or friends is the only method that a majority of Americans say would effectively draw them to church.” And by ubstituting could for would and you get a straight, unspun lede for the story.

Your see, presentation data provided by Lifeway director Ed Stetzer shows that 34% of those surveyed are “somewhat willing” and 22% are “very willing” to receive information from a friend or neighbor about a local church or religious community. From family members, it’s 37% and 26% respectively.

“Somewhat willing,” the largest positive group in both cases, may include everyone who is willing to listen politely, rather than either change the subject or just get up and go home.

A little field experience with these conversations will teach almost anyone that it is a long step beyond persuading wayward family members and neighbors to (perhaps impatiently) receive information, and having them show up at church.

The friends (22%) and family members (26%) who are “very willing” to listen aren’t necessarily willing to attend church in response either.

That may be why “Baptists like to talk more about evangelism than to actually do it,” as Stetzer put it. A lot of Baptists are likely to have had had ample try-and-fail experience with unchurched family members, neighbors and others. Especially, as the survey suggests, others.

God's Plan for Sharing

If GPS is a hard sell, the current difficulty of evangelism isn’t the only reason. Years of controversy over SBC numbers — not just the NAMB but also the International Mission Board and some state organizations — make this a good time to be as transparent as possible.

Actions like Stetzer’s provision of additional data [PowerPoint] are the best medicine for skepticism. As former North Carolina Biblical Recorder Editor R.G. Puckett often put it, “Tell the truth and trust the people.”

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Religion, SBC | Comments Off on Everyone gains from unspinning the LifeWay/NAMB evangelism survey

Italians reject Pope’s dismissive view of condoms as AIDS preventive

A majority of Italians disagreed with the Pope’s stand against using condoms to prevent AIDS, revealed a poll published in the newspaper La Repubblica:

The poll said that 52.3 per cent were “absolutely against” the Pope’s view – which overshadowed his trip to Africa last week – that condoms are not the answer to the Aids epidemic and on the contrary only “aggravate” it by encouraging sexual promiscuity. A further 21.2 per cent in the poll, conducted by Demos & Pi, said they were “fairly” opposed to the Pope’s position, making a total of 73.5 per cent.

News of this poll of nearly 1,700 Italians questioned in the six days immediately following the pope’s airborne remarks comes on the heels of two polls finding that the French are losing confidence in the Pope, possibly for similar reasons.

Neither post-facto revision of the Pope’s remarks nor any Italian equivalent of conservative pushback against scientific and medical criticism of the Pope’s stand were enough to turn the tide of public opinion in his favor. Italians have no trouble balancing such practical concerns with their religion, according to the London Times:

Ilvo Diamanti, a leading sociologist, said that Italians generally looked to the Catholic Church as a “moral compass”, especially in “difficult times.” This was not the case however when positions taken by the Church or the Vatican were seen as “different from the common consensus or the practical experiences of daily life”

The Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire criticized the French government for “presuming” to lecture Pope Benedict XVI on AIDS and condoms, and the Archbishop of Genoa railed that the pontiff had been unjustly “mocked and insulted” on the same issue by critics. All without distracting most of the Italian people from applying sound, practical judgment to a life and death issue of daily life.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Medical Care, Religion, Science | , , , , | 3 Comments