Research


A couple of years ago, I joined some others in inviting you to participate in some research Barb Orlowski was doing. I am happy to report that the research is complete, Barb is now DOCTOR Barbara Orlowski, and her research is available for you to read.

While I have not had opportunity to see the fruit of her labor, you can find reviews at the following sites:

Weary Pilgrimhttp://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com/the_weary_pilgrim/2009/12/index.html

Futurist Guy
http://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/spiritual-abuse-recovery-book-by-dr-barb-orlowski-published/

Prodigal Kiwis
http://prodigal.typepad.com/prodigal_kiwi/2010/01/spiritual-abuse-recovery-amongst-church-leavers.htm

To find out more information on the book click here.

I’d like to thank all of my readers who helped in this important research and encourage everyone who needs to find out more about spiritual abuse to visit Barb’s site and order her book.

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Lost and Found – Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, & Jason Hayes

©2009 B&H, Nashville

As much as I hate reading statistics and as hard as it is for me to search through research, I have been looking forward to this report/book for several months. Ed Stetzer and the guys over at LifeWay Research have been working on this compilation for a few years. The result is more examination of how to reach the younger generations. Lost and Found walks pretty much hand in hand with books like Simple Church (B&H, 2006), Essential Church (B&H, 2008), and UnChristian (Baker, 2007).

Divided into three parts, the authors use their research to introduce us to (1)what the younger generation looks like [younger generation is defined as the twenty-something crowd of which many have been identified as unchurched or even de-churched], (2)the mainstays (four pillars) of what it takes to reach this generation, and finally (3)a survey of the commonalities among the churches that are in fact reaching this generation.

Part I is filled with charts and graphs and tables and statistician-speak that is always difficult to muddle through for readers like me. However, this is the necessary groundwork from which the observations and suggestions throughout the book are drawn.

Part II is more interpretive and is built on the part of the research where all the responses to questionnaires are piled up in stacks of post-it note madness, reducing said responses to categories represented by a few key images (the graphics for these post-it mountains/key image categorizations is cool). The four areas discovered during the interview process that are important to younger adults (both within and outside of the church) as identified by the research team were Community, Depth (and content), Responsibility, and (Cross-Generational) Connection.

An interesting inclusion in the book is the on-going story of four representative twenty-somethings. The reader will find the fictional representation of how this research is lived out every day at the end of each chapter in parts I and II. I liked this part of the book because the fictional representatives of five different kinds of young adults helped to put some flesh on what goes on in the minds of those who participated in the research. The only glimpse of the characters outside of the first two parts of the book is the challenging conclusion that is in the (what else) conclusion.

Part III focuses on the churches that are getting it right as far as the younger adult generation is concerned. Mountains of interviews and reading are reflected in this section that identifies nine common traits found in those churches that are actually reaching this younger set of adults (creating deeper community, making a difference through service, experiencing worship, conversing the content, leveraging technology, building cross-generational relationships, moving toward authenticity, leading by transparency, and leading by team).

There are several bits of useful information in the book and some helpful hints as to how to build (or re-organize) your ministry to reach a generation that is quickly turning away from the church. One of the better moments is found about halfway through the book as the authors talk about the importance of building community. They suggest that churches should move from a behave/believe/belong model (which currently characterizes a majority of churches in America) to a belong/believe/become model. The former expects unchurched people to behave in the right manner before we even allow them in the doors of our space, then we teach them how to believe and finally we are free to invite them to belong to our number. The latter model suggests that we welcome people in (as they are) to then learn what we believe and then become with us as we learn to be more like Christ. (see pages 83 & 84).

I would recommend this book to anyone who is still trying to get a handle on the new generation. Those who are already getting it won’t benefit too much from this book except to validate what they are already doing.

I give Lost and Found 4 out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, March 12, 2009

I’ve finished my reading of Kinnaman’s unChristian and posted my review. I still have a couple of things that I’m working through that I will post here at a later date.

In my time in college I was privileged to take my first course in Biblical Ethics. As part of that course I had the opportunity to write a term paper on a topic chosen from a list. Because of personal prejudices that I was discovering in my own life, I chose the topic of homosexuality. I re-read my assessment this morning, and found it stepping forward from where I was when I started my higher education, but miles from where I need to be in terms of Christlikeness. I believe that this is one of the reasons that this particular issue is so telling in America’s version of the church community today.

I found it somewhat surprising, not entirely unexpected, yet still disturbing that David Kinnaman’s research zeroed in on “antihomosexual” as one of the gripes that outsiders have against American Christians today. Surely, this professional researcher did not ask a question like, “How do you see Christians responding to homosexuals?” I have to believe that the rising to the top of our attitudes toward the homosexual community was information that was volunteered rather than elicited specifically. At the same time, the on-going war (it isn’t simply a battle) waging between these two communities is causing younger generations to choose sides and take up banners.

On one hand, if a young person decides to claim his Christianity, the homosexual community labels him as a narrow-minded gay-bashing homophobe. However, if he decides to keep his Christian badge in his pocket so that he can remain loyal to his friends who are either openly gay or struggling with a gay identity, his friends from church will ostracize him as a gay-lover and sin-accepting liberal. All the while this young man is in love with Jesus and wanting to share Christ’s love with those around him—gay and straight alike. It is significant, I believe, that the chapter dealing with our antihomosexual perception is headed by a quotation from “Peter” a 34-year-old gay man, “It’s very much an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality, as if a war has been declared. Of course each side thinks the other fired the opening shot.” (see page 91)

In the Christian community (especially among evangelicals) we have a tendency to respond to all those who won’t be part of the church because “they are hypocrites” as latching onto a cop-out which makes it easy to avoid church attendance. I think that often we have earned the label, even if many who use that excuse are looking for a ready answer whenever we jump at them with evangelistic fervor. In the same way, we try to cover our own misshapen righteousness in the realm of homosexuality or any other activity that is opposed to what we learn in the Bible with “hate the sin; love the sinner.” I know that I have even tried to be-salve my own spiritual wounds with those very words.

The problem isn’t really in the non-acceptance of homosexuals because they live a lifestyle marked by sin. (My study of Scripture indicates that it is.) No, the problem has to do with delineating sin in the first place. Another thing that is loud and clear from the Scripture (but often ignored when we start naming the sins of others) is that we are to be concerned about our own relationship with a Living, Loving, Holy, Righteous, and Just God rather than others’ failure to have that relationship.

When I take a sin—any sin—that I have either overcome (with Christ’s help) or have never really had a struggle with, and point it out in another person’s life, all the while ignoring the fact that I have a completely different sin which I like to enjoy without doing anything about it, I stack sin on top of sin in my own life. Think of it this way, if I do not struggle with the sin of homosexuality, but want to point out that the one who practices it is living in sin, I am adding to the sin of, say, lying that I just can’t stop. Am I any less a sinner by expecting people to accept me even though I am a pathological liar than is the person who wants me to accept them even though they struggle with any other sin?

Among the Christian community, it has become unacceptable to love the homosexual, but we have tacitly sat by and engorged ourselves in overeating without concern. Is it a better witness for me to carry three hundred extra pounds than it is for me to carry on in any kind of sexual encounter other than with my life? The biblical grounds would suggest no, but the practice of the Christian community has screamed yes by not only accepting, but at times encouraging obesity as the norm among our leaders.

What I have concluded (am concluding?) is that as a Christ follower I have certain responsibilities:

  1. Be more Christlike daily.
  2. Worship God with my life and my lifestyle.
  3. Be a witness for Christ among the people who I encounter.

Any and all of these responsibilities preclude my taking any time to point out the sin in the lives of others. As a matter of fact, if I concentrate on doing just those three things, I won’t have time to police the lives of others for whatever sin may be their struggle. What should be happening is that God begins to speak to the sins of others through my Christlikeness rather than my negative words. And when I do open my mouth to share the truth of Christ, I focus on how good He is rather than how bad my friend is.

Shall we turn people away from the gates of the Kingdom because they make us uncomfortable, or shall we let God love them through us? It’s not my job to change someone else’s life. Jesus can make all the changes He desires—and it’s my job to let Him do it for me.

I’m a couple of chapters into David Kinnaman’s research report entitled unChristian. The author promises that people of the church culture won’t like what they read, and I’m sure that the warning will be realized as I work through the book. (For the interested, I’ll be reviewing the book in a couple of weeks after I’ve finished the whole book. Right now, I just want to make a few “gut reaction” observations as I read.) I thought I’d let you watch as I work through the material from time to time. Plus, I’ll get my thoughts down and see how true they ring when I’ve completed my reading.

First of all, two reasons I’m reading the book: (1) I was able to get a copy of the book without any out of pocket expense (I got a free copy). So, I might as well read the thing. (2) And probably more importantly, several respected colleagues have recommended reading this book. It seems to actually be a work of catalyst that will drive the church to the action required for her to re-become the church that Christ intended. I’m always up for trying to find useful information (whether I like it or not).

On the surface this book bears some resemblance to the growing mound of Christian-bashing books that has developed since the turn of the century. At the same time, this book is written by a Christian researcher who is just as floored by what the statistics are telling him as the reader will be. It is a loving nudge—maybe even more of a push—to the church to return to her calling. Leaders listen up.

In chapter 2, Kinnaman reports 6 thematic areas of concern that color the perceptions that people outside the church culture (Kinnaman uses the term “outsiders” as his descriptor of this group, a less invasive term than what Christians habitually use and still a tough term to settle on—such is the problem when looking for a single term to describe a group for the sake of written communication. Keep this in mind when deciding to adopt a term for wholesale use, much like we love the terminology “pagan”, “lost”, or “heathen”) as they decide how they feel about Christians and Christianity. The portrait painted is not pretty. One other quick note: Kinnaman will address each of these themes in a chapter I haven’t read yet, so what you’re getting here is my initial thoughts that may change or be shored up as I get into the research. Outsiders in the 16 to 29 age groupings perceive Christianity with the following characteristics:

  1. Hypocritical. Saying one thing and doing another. As hard as it is to admit it, this is probably an earned perception. So many of the louder voices of the Christian community come across as holier-than-everyone else, morally superior, and without flaw when the reality is we can be just as rotten on the inside as the next guy (often more so).
  2. Too focused on getting converts. The way conservative Christians have developed kamikaze-style witnessing tools, I can’t say that I blame those outside the church for this perception either. So many preachers have encouraged their people to see every conversation as an opportunity to “win somebody to Jesus” that we don’t have time to develop the relationships necessary to make the witness we throw out so freely valid. Yes, I believe that we must share our faith, but sometimes I think that we come across as simply looking for the next notch on our Bible or tally mark on the baptismal pool.
  3. Anti-homosexual. If I take issue with any of the perceptions, this would be it. Mainly because my own perception is one that finds the homosexual community one as a community that doing the same kinds of things the world perceives in the church—pushing itself upon those who are not part of it. At the same time, the more vocal portion of our number make it hard to avoid this perception, because our reaction to those who practice what we see as other than biblically appropriate with a less than loving response.
  4. Sheltered. We are seen as cloistering ourselves away and not looking at the world with a realistic viewpoint (putting our observational heads in the sand, or simply ignoring what we don’t like). To this perception, my response from the church side of the fence is “homeschooling, Christian publishing, Christian music, Christian radio” (see the on-going series on Mercenary Christianity). Are they so wrong about us?
  5. Too political. I’d have to agree here. Not only in the arena of politics, but also within the church community as well. My own denomination looks more like a political entity than a theological/doctrinal body every year.
  6. Judgmental. One word—Pharisees. Like our first century counterparts, we have a tendency to make snap decisions about someone and hold them to a standard that even we can’t keep.

What about you? Do you think that we are earning these perceptions or are young people just missing the boat when they look at Christians and Christianity?

I’m interested in seeing how the explanatory chapters deal with each of these issues. Stay tuned.

Barb Orlowski is hard at work doing research for her Doctor of Ministry degree. She is a candidate at A.C.T.S. Seminaries in Canada. Below you will find two request letters from Barb. First is a request outlining the type of people she needs to respond to research polls. The second letter is to pastors who might be helpful in the process as well. Read the notes. Then contact Barb if you can help. Also, if you operate a blog and could help get the word out, Barb would be most appreciative.

Hi Everyone,
I trust that you had a great summer. We enjoyed hiking a lot, especially in the alpine meadows among gorgeous and colorful wild flowers. It was amazing and we were filled with thanksgiving to God. I am back at my research desk and ready to step up the pace of my dissertation investigation. It is time to get the word out and request contributions from participants regarding this stimulating area of research.
The following are two “request for help” letters. I have prepared two questionnaires. One survey is for those who have experienced this situation in their church life and the other is for pastors who have been able to provide comfort and spiritual guidance to those who have come to them for help. If the following criteria describe you, I would welcome your participation in this study.

Thanks so much, Barb Orlowski

Request Letter No. 1
Request for Help for Potential Participants:

Hi Everyone, Sept. 2007

My name is Barb Orlowski. I am on the Doctor of Ministry program at A.C.T.S. Seminaries in Langley, B.C., Canada. In order to conduct the research necessary to complete my dissertation, I could use your help. I am conducting a survey among Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and have recovered from this experience.

Here are the criteria that I am looking for in participants:

1. Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and who have ceased to be associated with those congregations;
2. Christians who subsequently have recognized and processed their spiritual grief and pain and have experienced spiritual recovery;
3. Christians who are willing to share how they have processed their negative experience and have recovered spiritual harmony; those who can share what has happened since this painful episode. Christians who can answer this question: What factors have helped you to restore your confidence in God and His people?

If people feel that they fit the criteria for this study, please contact me.
I will give you further details about this study, and then I will send you the questionnaire along with the consent information. The responses given by those participating will be kept confidential. Your responses will be put in anonymous form and may be kept for further use after the completion of this study.

Thank you for your interest and participation in this study. I appreciate the time and effort that it takes to complete a questionnaire.

In Him, Barb

Barb’s contact email: churchexitersq@telus.net

* Comments and questions are welcome.

· When you respond to this request by emailing me
· *please let me know which site you saw this information. Thanks.

Request Letter No. 2
Request for Help from Pastors:

Greetings, Sept. 2007

I am student enrolled in the A.C.T.S. Doctor of Ministry program in Langley, B.C., Canada. In order to conduct the research necessary to complete my dissertation, I need the assistance of pastoral leaders. I could use your help with my research. I realize that you probably receive frequent requests to fill out surveys, but I would invite you to take a few minutes, complete a questionnaire and return it to me. This would be a significant help.

I am looking for pastors who have endeavored to provide spiritual guidance and help for the following people:

Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and who have ceased to be associated with those congregations.

There are many Christians who have faced the untimely distress of this particular yet widespread phenomenon. Many have simply left the church, while others have made an effort to reintegrate into a local church setting. It has taken courage for them to desire to reconnect with a pastor and seek their assistance in processing their grief and disillusionment with previous church leaders.

I would appreciate hearing how you, as a pastor, have provided spiritual guidance and encouragement for individuals who have faced this type of emotional and spiritual pain at the hands of those that they had trusted as their spiritual leaders. I believe that your insights would provide pertinent and helpful data for this study.

The information you give will be kept confidential. Any use of your responses in my dissertation will be put in anonymous form, but may be kept for further use after the completion of this study. If ever needed, I will ask for your permission to quote you.

Thank you for your interest and participation in this research. I appreciate the time and effort that it takes to complete a questionnaire.

Thanks, Barb Email Address: churchexitersq@telus.net

* Comments and questions are welcome.

· When you respond to this request by emailing me–
· *please let me know which site you saw this information. Thanks.