Ten Year Trends

March 10, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

These Trends are posted by Ed Stetzer. I do not agree with everythin he has written (tcf)

3 Important Church Trends in the Next 10 Years

Christianity in the United States may look very different in 10 years. |Ed Stetzer


As someone who both cares about the mission of the church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to “streams” of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice 3 important trends continuing in the next 10 years.

Trend #1: The Hemorrhaging of Mainline Protestantism

This trend is hardly news—mainliners will tell you of this hemorrhaging and of their efforts to reverse it.

Mainline Protestantism is perhaps the best known portion of Protestantism, often represented by what are called the “seven sisters” of the mainline churches. Mainline churches are more than these, but these seven are the best known, perhaps:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Episcopal Church
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • American Baptist Churches
  • United Church of Christ (UCC)
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

They tend to fall on the progressive side of the theological continuum, but there is diversity of theology as well (Methodists, as a whole, are probably most conservative, for example).

Mainline Protestantism is in trouble and in substantive decline. Some are trying to reverse this, through evangelism and church planting initiatives.

However, this is an uphill battle and, as a whole, mainline Protestantism will continue its slide.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), about 30 percent of Americans would self-identify (through their denominational selection) as mainline Protestants in 1972. Now they are down to 15 percent. In other words, based on the GSS, they lost half their people over 40 years.

Now, the GSS is not the same as membership rolls and attendance numbers, but it does reflect people’s connection. And, if that trend continues, the math does not look good.

Trend #2: Continued Growth of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement

The second thing I think you’re going to continue to see is the continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The Charismatics and Pentecostals have already won the worship war—most churches are now comfortable with what would be “Calvary Chapel” worship in 1980. They are in the process of winning the spiritual gifts debate concerning cessationism, a view which seems in decline in the next generation.

Yes, that growth has slowed in North America and the charismatic practices (both inside and outside of the movement) have also been tamed.

In other words, Pentecostals and charismatics are growing and influencing, but they also look a lot less like the Pentecostals and charismatics of a few decades ago.

Many in the movement are shying away from the oddities and excesses of Pentecostalism, while evangelicals are moving towards the theology of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led ministries.

I see both of those trends continuing.

Trend #3: Networks will Explode in Number and Influence

Denominations still matter—and they actually, for example, do most of the church planting in North America. However, networks are growing in influence and impact.

Ironically, some networks are going to become denominations (or denomination-like). For example, both the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, some of the early forerunners of networks, basically function like denominations today.

Networks are predominantly made up of nondenominational evangelical churches. The fastest growing category in North America is nondenominational evangelicalism—so growth here is inevitable.

The future is less mainline denominations or flat evangelical denominations, and more nondenominational evangelical networks.

All of these trends have implications—some good, and some not so good. But, facts are our friends. As we look to the years ahead, we need to do so with discernment and hope about what God is doing in the world through his churches.


Can Ministry Effectiveness Be Measured?

February 25, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

How do you measure effectiveness in ministry? Among church leaders, the gauge has shifted in the last 20 years.

In the early 1980s, when I began observing ministry closely and editing a journal for church leaders, the prevailing assumption was that effectiveness equaled attracting a crowd. Leaders would downplay the eternal significance of counting “nickels and noses,” but increased attendance and offerings were seen as evidence of success.

“A healthy church is a growing church,” we heard repeatedly.

In the last 20 years, however, we’ve witnessed plenty of ministries that touch lots of people but leave no discernible mark upon them. Some pastors have confessed, “We can attract a crowd but not know what to do with them, other than invite them to come back next week.”

More recently, church leaders have been seeking better ways to gauge whether their ministry is faithful and effective.


The most obvious indicator is lives that are transformed.

In a recent Christianity Today column (“A Healthy Cult”), Charles Colson provides a snapshot of effectiveness, in this case, in a prison ministry. Most prisons, he writes, are dirty, depressing places. “Men and women shuffle around listlessly with vacant expressions and their heads down. Anger, bitterness, and corruption are prevalent; one seldom hears laughter or sees signs of mirth.”

But in a prison in Newton, Iowa, the environment is different. There, after several years of Christian ministry, inmates “have a sense of purpose — people are busy with work or classes from early morning to lights out. There is little time for TV or lying around on bunks. They are building community, helping one another, and willingly obeying the rules.”

It’s a case of a culture being transformed. “The process begins when the believers band together in a loving fellowship, a “church,” really. Then they evangelize … Though in the minority at first, the Christian prisoners take biblical teaching to heart and boldly live it out. Others begin to follow their example and soon they reach a critical mass.”

In time the whole group, almost unconsciously, adopts different standards. Thus, Colson concludes, “we tend to evaluate churches by the classic marks: preaching, the sacraments, and discipline. But a fourth might be added: its impact on culture.”

Colson’s vision of ministry changing an entire culture is breathtaking in its scope. On a more modest scale, how can individual congregations monitor their progress toward that kind of impact, even if their entire city or county isn’t totally transformed within a few years?


Here are vital signs that pastors are monitoring (measured in percentages):

  1. Pre-Christians in worship services and outreach events (start with a goal of 15 percent and work up).
  2. Church members trained in sharing their faith (25 percent and up).
  3. Worship attenders who are part of a small group for prayer/Bible study (60 percent and up).
  4. Church members who have identified their spiritual gifts and are exercising them in some way for God’s kingdom (aim for 60 percent and up). Such “by the numbers” approaches to measuring effectiveness are helpful, but some harder-to-quantify intangibles also help describe a church’s fitness.


Recently Leith Anderson, in a Leadership article (“7 Ways to Rate Your Church”), listed several tests of a healthy church atmosphere:

  1. Do people sense the presence of God here? “Experiencing the supernatural dwarfs everything else in rating a church’s atmosphere,” says Anderson.
  2. Is the church others-centered? Are people interested in new people, in what they need, and how they can help?
  3. Will guests see someone “who looks like me”? The more diversity of race, income level, and age, the more accessible the congregation will be to a range of seekers.
  4. Does the church manage conflict? What makes a healthy church is not the absence of problems but how problems are handled.
  5. Is there a sense of expectancy? Listen to how people describe the church. Is the primary verb tense past, present, or future? Healthy churches don’t focus on what God “used to do” around here, but on what God is doing, and on dreams for the future.

Ultimately, of course, we won’t know until we hear God’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Five Reasons Why Churches Are Dying and Declining Faster Today

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

In the past, I’ve been able to lead churches to growth. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

A pastor shared those sentences with me just three days ago.

He was frustrated. He was confused. He was exhausted.

And he is not alone.

With some exceptions, it is indeed more difficult to lead churches to growth. Such is a reality that is about 15 years in the making. The obvious question is “Why?” Allow me to articulate five of those reasons.

  1. Cultural Christianity is declining rapidly. It is really a misnomer to call it “cultural Christianity,” since it’s not true faith in Christ. In the past, many people felt it was culturally, economically, or politically advantageous to be a part of a congregation, even if they weren’t true believers in Christ. These attending non-believers padded our numbers. Or to say it another way, the pool of willing attenders has diminished greatly.

  2. The exit of the Builder generation. The Builder generation has kept many churches alive, even if the congregations are on life support. This generation, born before 1946, is fiercely loyal to institutions, including local churches. They stuck with congregations in good and bad times. But, in 2015, there were only 28 million Builders left. Another 13,000 Builders die every week. The loyal generation is few in number and will soon be no more.

  3. Migration from rural areas and small towns to the cities. In 1790, only 5% of Americans lived in cities. By the 1960s, the percentage of Americans in cities skyrocketed to 65%. Today over 80% of Americans are city dwellers. Rural and small-town churches held on tenaciously to their members for over two centuries. But the population base for those tenacious churches has dwindled dramatically.

  4. Faster church transfers. Those who are transferring from one church to another are concentrating in fewer churches. Simply stated, a few churches are getting bigger at the expense of smaller churches. While that phenomenon has been in play for quite a while, it is now accelerating. The old barrier that held people in specific churches – family connections, denominational loyalty, and loyalty to a specific congregation – are no longer barriers today. People move with great freedom from church to church.

  5. Slow response to change as change accelerates all around us. Many churches are incredibly slow to change. For most of our American history, the pace of cultural and technological change was sufficiently paced for churches to lag only five to ten years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the pace of change increases dramatically. To many attendees and members, the church thus seems increasingly irrelevant. To be clear, I am speaking about issues of style, methodology, and awareness, not changing doctrine or biblical truths. A church guest I recently interviewed said it clearly: “I stuck with my parents’ church as long as I could. But when we had a big blow up over projection screens in the worship center, I had enough. I wanted to go to a church where matters of minutia were not issues to fight over.”

If you think it is more difficult to lead a church to growth, you are right. If you have noticed the decline in your church is greater, you are probably right as well. And if you are to the point of realization that your church may die in the next few years, it may come sooner than that.

Change or DIE!!

January 13, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own “glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.

I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.

Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Busyness Is Killing US!

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Busyness has become a trendy epidemic. And I think it’s slowly killing us. I’m almost afraid of asking friends to get together nowadays; I know it could be weeks before we find a date on the calendar that mutually works.


What are we so busy with that’s pulling us away from human connection?


Busyness has taken a large hold of my life, so much so that I’m fearful of the consequences. A few weeks ago I went away for the weekend to Seattle with my husband. On arrival he dropped me off at the hotel and went to find a parking spot, and I headed up to our room and waited there for a good thirty minutes while he trawled the streets for an optimal space.


As I waited for him alone in the room I realized I had nothing to do — probably for the first time in weeks, or even months. Within minutes I felt bored and was reaching for my phone, feeling annoyed when I didn’t have the password for the hotel Wi-Fi. In that panicked moment of what do I do now?

And then suddenly it hit me: I’m addicted to being busy.


Which is ironic because there has been so much advancement in technology that is based on simplifying my life to reduce that hectic pace. My smart phone, with its apps, is like an appendage. I depend on it to give me what I need, and fast. With it I can multitask so much better than I could a decade ago.


I should have plenty of downtime for my family and friends, right?


Life on Overdrive

The accessibility of smart phones and all the accompanying apps; ultra high speed internet, and the many modern conveniences that claim to make life faster and easier, have only left us with higher expectations and busy lives.


We are now able to pack more into our lives, and put pressure on ourselves to do so. But at what cost? Real human connection? Our health?


Technology advancements have helped lead us down this path but are they entirely to blame? When I compare my life to my mother’s at my age it’s like I’ve hit the playback button on my video stream. I can’t blame that on technology alone, so why is my life so much busier than hers ever was?


The Need for More

In the 1970s my mother kept a home and raised three kids. She didn’t work until we were all much older. Her social life revolved around friendships, the wall-mounted telephone, and the dinner table. Her world was so much smaller.


If my mother wanted to connect with someone she had to call them or knock on a door. She had to make the time for real conversation. Yes, those connections were few — she didn’t have the 700 Facebook friends I have — but they were real, consistent and regular.


But I want so much more than that. I want the career, the kids, the house, the social life, the vacations, the clothes … I could go on.


The problem is that society and technology have made it easier for us to have more. And the more we have, the more we want; the more want, the more we have to do to get it. We aren’t busy because we love the stress; we’re busy because we’re all trying to keep up with one another.


And why do we want to keep up? Because our real human needs have never changed — we want to belong, and to be accepted, seen and loved.


Authentic Living

How do we live authentically? In our efforts to use “busyness” as a way to keep pace with the people around us and feel like we belong, are we in fact disconnecting ourselves from what we truly desire?

It begins with living out of our core values. Does the pressure to put our kids in five activities a week come from a value, say, of connection and joy, or from a desire for our child to be just as good at baseball as Johnny next door?


And what will that child remember more: being pushed to excel in baseball, or laughing around the family dinner table?


When our lives are overloaded we need to start asking some hard questions about why we do what we do. Is it because the things we fill our life with bring us contentment and joy, or because we can do more, so we just do?


Slowing Down

Society is racing ahead at 100 miles an hour, but our hearts and brains don’t know how to keep up. Our needs are no different now than they were a century or millennium ago.


There is so much opportunity around us — it’s like being offered a whole cake at once instead of just a slice. But we don’t know how to eat the whole cake and feel good; so we need to learn to accept just a slice at a time.


Perhaps that one slice looks like concentrating on pursuing a dream, or connecting with family, or both. But it’s not everything all at once.


The opportunity to do more is a wonderful thing, but if we’re too “busy” rushing from one thing to the next to be able to slow down and enjoy the moment, it loses its value entirely. I think I need to take my own advice.


What does your “busy” look like? If your life is on overdrive, are the things keeping you busy in line with your core values?


Design a simple life. Start here. Start now.

You can design a life of less—and more. More of what you love, less of what you don’t. It’s a process, and we’re all in it together. We have created a 30-day email course that will inspire + encourage you on your journey

10 Characteristics of An Effective Pastor/Church Leader

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1. I am a can-do person.
Strong teams are full of people who take accountability for themselves, and who feel most alive when they are putting their best foot forward.
2. This is not my job. This is my life.
2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a Holy life”. This isn’t just about a job in ministry. This is about a lifestyle that reflects the transforming work of Jesus Christ.
3. I will serve the Lord with gladness.
“On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.” Psalm 100:2 Ministry is hard, but if it isn’t also fun and full of gladness, we’re doing something wrong.
 4. Empowerment starts with me.
Strong ministries operate under the assumption that everyone is empowered to work hard, grow, overcome sin and temptation, serve others, confront conflict, make amends, take accountability and empower others to do the same.
5. I am not on the gossip train.
It’s so easy to get caught in the gossip train, if not in church itself, then in the blogosphere. Healthy ministries resist gossip – – no exceptions!
6. I am one of them.
No matter what team you are leading, what title you hold, or what title you hope to hold someday — we are all on the same team. We play different roles but are pointed toward the same objective.
7. I will bring those around me on the journey.
As a church leader, there are hundreds of people you try to “bring with you” on the journey. But the most important group of people you can bring with you is your own family. Your ministry won’t matter without them.
8. My tone of voice is not whining.
It is possible to have a good heart, but still come across as whining or complaining to others. How does my leadership sound to those around me? Leadership attitudes (real or perceived) are contagious.
9. I delegate but I don’t dump.
Do you see others around you as a means to an end, or are you also invested in what they are learning and who they are becoming?
10. My spirituality is attractive.
Our love for God, for people, and for life should be always be compelling to others.

Consequences of Pride

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

I would like to explore the topic of humility and pride. Specifically, the consequences of pride.


James writes:


Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.


The point is that there is blessing found in humility. When we hold on to pride, there are consequences that result. Here are several consequences of pride:




Think about the person who is the know-it-all. They tend to drive people away. A prideful person will fail to ask for help because they will not be able to admit they need help. Because they fail to ask for help, they will end up going it alone. If someone comes along to help, a prideful person will quickly push them  away by making them feel unwanted. Pride will isolate us from others.


Disillusionment and Despair


If you put confidence in yourself, you will eventually be let down. There will come a time when your body will fail you. Your mind will fail you. Your money will fail you. Wise King Solomon recognized that even though he was considered the wisest man in the world, that his fate was the same as a fool (see Ecclesiastes 2:14). In Proverbs King Solomon also wrote:


Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)


Remember that pride is too much belief in you


Lack of Development as a Leader


Pride prevents growth. It leaves us stagnated. Pride gives us a sense of accomplishment. We believe we have arrived. We close ourselves off from learning, from listening, and from opening ourselves to new ways of thinking and doing.


How many companies with a successful product failed to innovate? They were content with their success. Because they failed to innovate a new upstart company comes along with a new and innovative product. Before you know it, the formerly successful company is shuttering its doors. Blockbuster Video was an example of this. They were stuck with their brick & mortar stores. Netflix comes along and by the time Blockbuster tried to make the transition to online streaming video it was too late. Then there was Polaroid & Kodak. They once had a revolutionary instant camera, but they did not realize digital cameras were the way of the future.


We think we have got it all figured out. Are you teachable? Are you open to learning even in an area where you may be knowledgeable and accomplished? Talent alone can get you into the big leagues, but it is nurturing and refining that talent that wins championships. There are some athletes that when they make the big time, their ego is so large; they will not listen to their coach. But the athletes that lift the trophies are the ones that get past their egos, dedicate themselves to becoming better, and open themselves to new strategies and ways of playing the game.


Humble yourself, let the Lord lift you up to new heights never imagined! Take the time to learn and listen. Consider new possibilities with new ways of seeing and doing.

Reformation & Revival

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG


We need to preserve a very clear view of what genuine revival is and in so doing to appreciate afresh just how marvelous such a work of grace is. Those who have themselves witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in revival hardly need written descriptions and definitions to help them. However, those who have never known the reality of revival are more prone to settle for something less.

Many believe that revival is linked to the restoration of supernatural gifts to the church. The major revivals of the past have indeed been noted for phenomena, but these have not been of the kind seen in many modern movements. This distinction is vital and underlines the importance of careful definition of what constitutes revival.

Four basic essentials can be observed at Pentecost which characterize all revivals of this epoch. We shall examine each of these in turn.

1. The sense of God’s nearness and especially an awareness of His holiness and majesty.

2. A greatly intensified work of the Holy Spirit in conviction of sin and giving repentance and      faith.

3. A marvelous increase in the numbers added to the church.

4. Powerful preaching of the gospel.

Follow this link to the full article.


Orthodox Applied

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Orthodoxy & Orthopraxy

Orthopraxy is a compound Greek word. The first word in the compound is ortho, which is quite familiar to most of us today. It means “right, correct, or straight.” An orthodontist is a dentist who can “straighten” or correct teeth. An orthopedist is a doctor who works with deformities or misalignments of the skeletal system, often the spine, with the hope of being able to correct them. Praxis, the second word of the compound, sounds similar to the English equivalent—practice. Orthopraxy or orthopraxis is simply “correct practice” or “correct behavior.”

Orthopraxy is often seen in distinction from orthodoxy, which is “correct teaching” or “correct doctrine.” If someone is orthodox, it means that he believes correctly. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are often seen to be on opposite ends of a spectrum. Some forms of Christianity seem to place more emphasis on correct doctrine. Other forms of Christianity seem to care little for doctrine but place heavy emphasis on proper deeds. Orthopraxis can also refer to the correct performance of required rituals, which is important in some expressions of Christianity as well as in other religions. In many religions, it matters little what one believes as long as the correct works and rituals are performed.

Evangelical Protestantism emphasizes correct doctrine, and critics sometimes caricature the evangelical position as teaching that, as long as you believe the right things, it doesn’t matter what you do. That is not a genuine evangelical position, and neither is it a biblical understanding of the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

According to the Bible, correct doctrine will lead to correct behavior, but the doctrine comes first. In Romans, Paul spends the first eleven chapters explaining correct doctrine. In Romans 12:1 he transitions to correct practice: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” The word therefore means that the instructions that follow are based upon the doctrine that has just been explained.

In Ephesians we see the same pattern. Ephesians 1–3 explain correct doctrine, and chapters 4–6 explain correct practice. Once again, Ephesians 4:1 makes the transition: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In the first 3 chapters, Paul has explained the calling of the Christian in doctrinal terms, and now he calls his readers to live in light of that doctrine.

In Titus 3:8 Paul pulls orthodoxy and orthopraxy together in one verse: “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God [orthodoxy] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good [orthopraxy]. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” He does the same thing in Ephesians 2. Verses 8–9 emphasize the orthodox teaching that we are saved by grace through faith apart from good works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Verse 10 completes the thought: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Once again, correct belief comes first, and out of that flow correct works. We are saved apart from works; God’s purpose in saving us is that we do good works.

In fact, the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is so strong that, if a person does not perform good works, it is doubtful that he believes the right things. First John 2:3–6 explains, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

Some religions and some forms of Christianity emphasize orthopraxy with little regard for orthodoxy, but this is not the biblical pattern. Likewise, some forms of Christianity emphasize orthodoxy with little regard for orthopraxy. This too is unbiblical. The biblical model is that we must embrace correct doctrine (orthodoxy), and this must be more than mere intellectual assent to truth. Biblical faith involves trust and personal commitment. When a person goes beyond affirming the fact that Christ is the “Savior of the world” to trusting Christ as “my Savior from my sins,” then he or she is born again. The indwelling Spirit of God begins to change that person from within. Correct behavior (orthopraxy) will result from that inner work.

We cannot see a person’s heart, but the link between orthopraxy and orthodoxy is so strong that, if a person’s practice is not correct, we can infer that his faith is not truly orthodox. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:14–19). Even demons have an orthodox theology, but they are not saved!

In summary, both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important. If any form of Christianity emphasizes one to the exclusion or diminishing of the other, it is unbiblical. Good deeds are a necessary and normal part of the Christian life; however, they are unable to make one righteous before God. Justification is only possible by faith in the Savior whose substitutionary, sacrificial death paid the penalty for our sins and provided us with the righteousness that we need to make us acceptable to God.


Cultural Analysis

September 27, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

According to cultural sociologist Jeffrey Alexander (2003, p. 4), the task of cultural sociology is “to bring the unconscious cultural structures that regulate society into the light of the mind…we must learn how to make them visible.”  In other words, one goal in the study of culture is to make the invisible visible. Doing so is important because we can reveal patterns that may be important for people to realize, of which they may be otherwise unaware. This may potentially lead to changes in their attitudes and/or behavior.

In an article that examines agency in narrative texts, Franzosi and colleagues (2012) ask “How can we measure something that is not there?” How we go about making culture visible in a systematic way is the focus of this page and the project of the Culture Lab in general. Sociologists and other scholars studying culture employ a range of methods to do so. We offer brief descriptions of some methods —  Content and Interpretive AnalysisExperiments, Ethnographic Interviews and Survey Research — along with illustrative examples of studies that employ them. Different research questions demand different approaches to collecting and analyzing data. Each method has benefits and weaknesses and selecting a method is dependent on the question about culture being asked. For more information about methods of analyzing culture, you may also want to check out a special issue in Qualitative Sociology titled: Methods, Materials and Meanings: Designing Cultural Analysis.

Why use Content/Textual Analysis versus other Methods to study Culture? 
There are many advantages to systematically analyzing culture through examining texts such as books, newspapers, films, magazines, or social media which make up the shared context of the social world. Content Analysis is especially valuable for its ability to not only capture trends over time, but to reveal otherwise hard-to-detect, obfuscated patterns within a mass of cultural messages. Additionally, depending on the kind of content available, researchers can access purposeful communication over time (such as laws and policies), as well as unintentional and covert messages embedded in public discourse and media content, and can examine variations in content intended for different audiences. Moreover, textual analysis is an unobtrusive form of studying communication and has the strong benefit of being replicated by other scholars to substantiate researchers’ findings. Finally, content or textual analysis enables researchers to answer theoretical questions about culture with empirical evidence, making for especially compelling arguments. Other methods can be excellent for assessing culture. Pugh (2013) outlines the benefits of approaching cultural analysis through interview techniques.

How have you measured and analyzed culture?  What are examples of other exemplary studies?  Continue the conversation here.

Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2003. The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Franzosi, Roberto, Gianluca De Fazio, and Stefania Vicari. 2012. “Ways of Measuring Agency: An Application of Quantitative Narrative Analysis to Lynchings in Georgia (1875-1930).” Sociological Methodology 42:1-42.

Pugh, Allison. 2013. “What Good Are Interviews for Thinking about Culture? Demystifying Interpretive Analysis.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology 1:42-68.

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