Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Research and Development

Some of you have written to ask me about the Reveal book from Willow Creek. I have read it and analyzed it on my other blog at

I am very excited about the fact that Willow has the courage and integrity to do the research and then publish it for all to see. I know of few Christian groups that are open about their weaknesses. This is especially true when we consider that the research seems to show that Willow has failed in meeting many of their most basic goals.

Take a look at my other blog and think about what is going on. Barna is also writing about these issues from a different angle with the book, Revolution. What is God saying to the church?

I have spent my adult life as a professional educator, coach and therapist. All these professions involve growth, healing and influencing change. From what I see in most Christian publications, it is a wonder that any believer is ever equipped, healed or mature.

Christians have confused Pep Rallies with Playing the Game. I have always loved pep rallies. They are loud, exciting, colorful, inspirational and positive. We get to see beautiful girls dance, enjoy a pep band play our favorite fight songs and hear a wonderful motivational speaker tell the crowd that out players are the best in the world.

Then the game begins and the pep rally is forgotten. What counts now is not noise but skill, preparation, practice and stamina. When I coached basketball I had my players do wind sprints, practice defense and run laps until their tongues flopped out like puppies. They hated it. But it was those dreary, pain filled practices won games.

We preachers love the music, pomp and circumstance of a pep rally. Rarely does a preacher or teacher take members through the paces of a real practice and make sure the members can actually play the game. Oh, I know that our call is to "Equip the members so they can do the works of the ministry." It is a rare event when we even thinks that is our main job. The power of the platform is simply too strong to resist.

Willow's research proves that entertainment is not equipping; performance is not playing and crowds do not mean growth. Let's pay attention to the data.

I confess I still need to "Do what Jesus did and actually 'coach' people to do His works and not just 'tell" people what He did.


paula clare said...

Hi Gary,
Barna's book Revolution was one of the most eye opening I've ever read. He discusses what has "happened" to a good number (4 million to be exact) of folks who just "fell off the radar" in all of his church growth study. Barna has done church growth and development research for years, and therefore (thought he) had a good feel for the numbers that recurred over time. Suddenly, it occured to him that there were people missing...not in the church data and not in the unchurched data. WHERE were these "missing folks"?

The book's title gives some insight into where they least physically and emotionally. I see Barna's book as an appropriate precursor to Willow Creek's REVEAL study. As Willow Creek researchers noted, "We should have seen this coming."

Gary Sweeten said...

Paula, Yes, Barna is also picking these issues up in his research. He is asking some good questions. I am not sure he has the correct answers, who does? I am excited to think that if we can unleash just a small percent of the currrent crop of Seasoned Believers to look for God's guidance and wisdom the answers will come.