Church Research

Thinking and Providing Biblical and Grace Centered Theological Resources for the Church

One of our main current tasks is research, using Schaeffer’s ideas as well as researching his materials, for the purpose to make insights and application for church leaders and pastors to help lead the church into a better more biblical direction.

It is not so much how we do things; it is how we are!
  
The principle focus of FSICLD for the last 15 plus years is seeking why so many churches are failing.

This is what we found, and it is not pretty: Our churches are not glorifying Christ because we are failing at knowing and growing in Him personally. We are not able to teach others when we are failing at following His Word and Christ alone! Remember, it is His Church and we are the caretakers of it. Thus, we must act according to our call and His precepts.

The categories of significant research:
  • Why Churches Fail, 1994-1996, 1998- 2006, ongoing
  • Pastors Personal Lives, 1992-2007, ongoing
  • Bible Literacy, 1978-1987, 1997-1999, 2004-present
  • Church Trends, 1978-1982, 1990-2000, ongoing
  • Why People in Church Fight? 1980-1985, 1995-1998, ongoing
  • Relevance and of Leadership Training as Compared to Actuality of practice, 1986-1998
  • Biblical Stewardship verses Postmodern Thinking, 2001-2004
  • Fruit of the Spirit as a Biblical Mandate verses Actual Practice in American Churches 2008- ongoing
Our Research Methods

The Research Methodology of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development

Our Participants

We asked questions mostly to American subjects. Over 70% live in southern California; of these, 60% are evangelicals, 22% are main-line denominational, 15% are Pentecostal, and 2% are Catholic. Men make up 68% and 80% of them are aged 28 to 59. The age range of the 32% who are women is from 26 to 62.

The principle research participants in our studies tended to be educated and experienced pastors and church leaders (if the study centers on pastoral performance or church leadership; if the study has a different theme, then it will indicate otherwise. Such as in our relational and stewardship or spiritual maturity research projects, various participants will be utilized.) The various studies will indicate the prime target participants. Of the pastors surveyed, nearly all had a minimum of a BA from a Bible College (18%); most had a Master of Divinity (69%) a significant portion had a Doctorate (12%), and one percent (1%) reporting no higher education. The majority, 85%, was male and the remaining 15% were female. Of the females, the majority (62%) was non-ordained but held a directorship or major leadership role in a church, and the remaining were full-time ordained pastors. Thirty-two percent (32%) were in lay leadership and four percent (4%) were the spouse of a pastor there.

The participants in our non-pastoral surveys ranged in age from 17 to 92 years. The denominational affiliation varied (less than 1% were non-Christians; the rest were Lutheran 8%, Catholic 4%, Presbyterian 12%, Methodist 9%, Reformed 22%, Non-Denominational 22%, and 20% stated Evangelical. Less than 2% indicated “other” or provided no response. The majority (69%) of our personal surveys were people residing in Southern California. We did not officially record participants’ ethnicity; however, an observation was made that over 70% were white and the rest were Hispanic, African American, and Asian. Most, 68% of our participants were in a seminar on church leadership or a Bible course and thus had a significant interest in pursuing their continued education for self-improvement and/or the improvement of their church.

Our Participant Platforms

The location of the majority of our studies was one of two platforms. One, we handed out surveys at various pastor and church leadership conferences, the majority being in Southern California, such as the Fuller Institute seminars, Schaeffer Institute gatherings in Carmel, Ca, Preach The Word, CMTA and KKLA pastors luncheons, our ITW conferences, and various denomination gatherings and missions conferences. Also included were the Gospel.com conference in MI, the National Religious Broadcasters tradeshow in So. California and Nashville, TN, as well as the Christian Management Association in Dallas along with many others.

The second main platform is our proprietary and confidential research of over one thousand (1,200+) churches that we have been personally tracking for over fifteen years. In addition, we conducted online surveys as a retest form of statistical measure and validation of scale analyses. We also do church consultations and glean information from our clients as well as pursue government census data and investigate and compare to the research and findings of others.

Our Apparatus

The primary apparatus is usually a prepared questionnaire asking ranked questions of what is important in one’s personal life, ministry, and church as well as seeking information on personal spiritual growth and church growth and health evaluation. We then undertake online surveys in greeter samplings for synopsis and/or as a retest to the observations. We also take a small percentage of these groups and do in-depth personal interviews on randomly selected targets to acquire more data and get to deeper root issues a form survey will not unfold.

Our Research Focus

Our investigative focus is primarily a critical and scholarly evaluation on the subject. In addition, we seek primarily biblical, true Truth, thus resulting in an investigation of the relative biblical texts and the context from the view of how it was understood in the time and culture from rigorous and sustained exegetical and inductive analysis. We also consider the diachronic approach (i.e. the text’s phenomena interpretive history with its change through time). The Inductive method that is employed is logical induction arising from inductive logic of word meaning and context, and sentence structure proceeding from particular facts to a general conclusion. I will attempt to take the principle inductive questions and seek to find out what the scriptural text plainly says—what it means and how it applies today—and then weave it into conversational presentation annotations.

This induction is then compared to logical deduction; “deductive reasoning” being inferences from general principles from historicity, compared to other’s research evidence. In our various research platforms, we used questioned interviews involving people having been cross-examined in an analytical and synchronic approach. This is compared to large scale research performed from research organizations seeking rising trends and mindsets. We also explore both the salient as well as the convergent and divergent views. For example, in our stewardship research, we started with a look at the definition of stewardship (which simply means to manage someone else’s property.) The plain truth, as the hypothesis panned out, was that for the Christian, it means to manage God’s property as everything in the universe belongs to Him. The Exegetical research was compared to statistical research of primary sources. Then, results were obtained, seeking true, significant, direct correlation between Faith and Practice, and between Bible Truth and the practice of Christian living. For the stewardship project, it was clear that the results were significantly clear: Faith and Giving Are Connected: A person who is more likely to give is not one who was manipulated or emotionally appealed too, rather who has grown in their faith formation and gratitude for Who and what Christ has done for them!

Our Hypotheses and Induction

In most scientific studies, a “Hypothesis Conjecture” is preformed, and research is done to test that assumption. We do research conjunctures; however we seek an “inductive logic” over a “manufactured” hypothesis. This approach was first documented and proposed by Aristotle’s conception of “induction” and further expanded by Francis Bacon (1620) who developed an elaborate account of such reasoning and theory of argument evaluation, which begin to appear more in scientific modeling and matured more in philosophical reasoning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inductive logic proceeds from specific statements to quantitative relation, then to evaluating arguments, and then to conclusions made to be objective and reasonable. This is a better way to reason out the situation so inferences that are inserted or drawn in to the project are based on fact and not fantasy or misguided interpretation. This gives us a better degree of support and strength for the conclusion. The reason for this is the logic of induction is better; it has no preconceived bias and seeks real effectual truth—not a forced finding that may not be there. Findings are observed and derived from direct observation of all possible particulars, which yields more comprehensive insights about a topic. In turn, some existing assumptions and thinking are challenged. Schaeffer called us to, seek real, effectual, true Truth to better glorify our Lord and serve His Church, not meaningless speculations and faulty trends.

Our Inductive Biblical Applications

The goal of our research is first to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then we seek what is going on in His Church, seek what He called us to do, then determine how it all relates. We seek problems, solutions, and possibilities to improve and grow the Church into a more effectual relationship with Christ and to become a better vessel of impact to our neighborhood and the Kingdom of God.

Our research for over thirty years on Inductive Bible Study has proven that the formation and growth of faith produces a firm desire to be faithful fruit-bearers and stewards of what God gives. Our modus operandi is an inductive, exegetical approach alongside deductive research as well as statistical research and personal interviews. For example, our stewardship project took a deep look at over 100 passages with even a more in-depth exegetical examination of five of these passages. This is a “text-oriented,” word study expository, using inductive and deductive research methodology in conjunction with exegetical and statistical research, and alongside surveys and interviews with Christians on how much they give as compared to how much time was spent in prayer and the spiritual discipline. The findings clearly show that the more time spent in spiritual formation produced increased joyful giving of the individual. Also, questions about why stewardship is important and how and why it is not important were asked. The results of these questions were taken into account to the necessity of education in stewardship precepts.

The findings clearly indicated that a lack of spiritual formation and growth of faith produces a decreasing desire to be faithful stewards of what God gives!

Our Validity Scales

A Validity Scale was also established in our studies. To compensate, we asked verifying questions and analysis, having more than three groupings to compare. These findings were compared to the informal questions to control groups and then compared to our propriety of church groupings and statistical numerical agreement. The retests consisted of a split form survey, personal and email questionnaires, and then a faction of people participating in a focused group workshop that gave attention to areas of the topic of research. Findings supported a positive view of a personal, local, as well as universal Church where friendship was practiced and conflict resolved—or the willingness to be resolved was present, and people felt connected and accepted. We also retested our findings via internet surveys using the same scales to different populations of similar demographics. If research is done right, higher samplings may not obtain different results, or will show a discrepancy in proofing the hypotheses, in which case, we would redo the research in greater samplings or groupings.

Our Findings

The hypothesis and inductive analyses from our research are geared to move from conjecture to stated fact beyond statistical significance. If not, and the research is flawed or the hypothesis is in error, there will be a greater than 5% statistical variation. The proof from our stewardship project revealed that the growth in faith determined growth in stewardship. That is, the formation and growth of faith produced more willingness to bear fruit and support the Kingdom in time, talents, and treasures.

For example, through our in-depth church failure research and investigations (1980-2009), and our ongoing online retests, we have shown that a direct correlation exists with people who are satisfied in church, who are friend makers and keepers, and the overall effective health of the church. In contrast, there is a direct correlation with those who are not satisfied in their church, who lack the ability or make no effort to make friends in a church setting and those who cause church fights and failures. This study shows that effective relationships are paramount in the contribution to long-term church relational success and health. Pastors and lay leaders independently completed surveys and interviews.

Biblical Key Word Inductive Analyses

Besides survey and interview research, we conducted in-depth, biblical, historical considerations via Inductive and Deductive examination. Each of our studies consisted of a discussion section that centered on a deductive analysis of the answers from the interviews as compared to the exegetical research and statistical research. For example, in our church heath projects, the subjects were asked the question, “how do you feel when churches, ministries, or even missionaries seek you, asking for funds?” The results of current thinking in churches may show a lack of true understanding of biblical precepts that state what faith should produce compared to the biblical mindset.

Some of the questions we used sought how one would describe his/her perspective on life: “what is God doing in you and through you? How important are your perspectives and viewpoints on life? Are you confident that you are right? How so? What would cause you to change your viewpoint on a particular subject? How does your world-view influence your beliefs and actions? How does it affect your outcome in trials and in life? How do money, sex, and power have an influence on you? What about in your church? What will be the real values in your life that will echo throughout eternity? How does being self-focused prevent you from gaining anything of real meaning? Do you believe that wealth is never a proof of God’s work or blessings? Do you believe that we are made rich in who we are in Christ, not in our circumstances? Why, then, do many Christians think otherwise? How can you seek Him, His perspective, and His wisdom to give you greater understanding, skills, trust, hope, security, and opportunities with Stewardship?” The answers to these questions will put you on the right track to the percepts Jesus is communicating!

Our biblical findings also relate to and compare to our circumstances, how we look at our Lord, and how our hurts can be escalated into weapons of hurt for others. Our perception of adversity and His sovereignty will totally affect how we learn to deal with all of these (Phil 1:27-30). Unanchored stress and disappointment, along with detachment from looking to God will take us away from seeing His signposts of precepts and thus we will engage in the practice of false teachings, leadership dysfunction, and church failure as well as personal and spiritual failure. The bottom line of our research for over thirty years has indicated that when we ignore God’s plan and we are dumped in the middle of a tossed sea (Job 23:10; Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; James 1:1-8), we cannot just expect God to get us through without any effort on our part. To grow, we have to struggle and work it out (Phil. 2). It is the struggle that helps us; it is what builds us and forms us and His Church. Without it, there is no growth, no real impacting faith, no honest character, no genuine patience or maturity (Prov. 3:5-6; 20:30; Job. 36:5; Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 1:9; 1 Peter 1:6-7). When we do not rely on God to build our church and our faith, we are not taking care of ourselves by helping Him out; rather, we are insulting Him and thus producing a church of suppression instead of what Schaeffer coined, a Fruitful Bride!

Our Schaeffer Research

Our mission is not to just examine Schaffer’s writings per se; rather, we seek to prove what he has said or predicted. We look at Schaeffer’s insights, and then at our surveys and interviews, placing them as statistics, and related these to our personal consulting and pastoral experiences and compared them to our biblical, exegetical research. We even looked at the secular world of science and psychology—not the symptoms or assumptions, but rather at the root issues, then seek effectual solutions. Francis Schaffer is our key mentor and guide; but our principle is always God’s Word and what the fact findings are to our research quest.

Our research compared with others

We also researched other’s data such as Barna.org, and others that have shown similar findings as ours; sometimes they diverge. American Church spiritual activities have risen significantly, such as church attendance, Bible reading, and small group participation. Our research has shown a drop. Why is there a divergence? Usually, it centers on whom we surveyed. For example, Barna’s focus is on the Church as a whole, whereas we focused on the Conservative and Reformed Movements. Thus, liberalism is on the increase in mainline denominations but also to a significant portion is spiritual formation, as in small groups actively seeking spiritual significance for one’s life, but not necessarily in the classic reformational teachings of Bible and doctrine and spiritual passion for Jesus as Lord.

Our entire website is filled with solid research, insightful articles, practical curriculums, essays, tools, and resources to help you prepare your church to grow in Christ and glorify Him! Our articles and studies have been carefully, exegetically prepared with careful, steadfast, inductive analysis and word studies of God’s most precious Word. We do not add anything to God’s Word that is not already there nor do we take away from insights and ideas that are there. These studies are the real deal, what God has to say to us. These are offered to you so you may understand what is in His Word, to appreciate, comprehend, and to be challenged to grow richer and deeper in your relationship to Christ and to others around you.

· The Real Issues!

· Patterns that are Visible!

· Opportunities for Growth!

More here: http://www.churchleadership.org/pages.asp?pageid=66922 

 

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3 Responses

  1. Just heard about Acts29 churches. I live in Chatt, TN.
    Is there an Acts29 church plant for Chattanooga?
    If there is…I would like someone to contact me.
    Greg Manning 423-321-2921. Thanks

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