Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Revealing Research

Taking care of the Babies

I greatly disliked the statistics and research classes I had to take in Graduate School. I was always somewhat afraid of math and statistical correlations, terms of significant to the .001 level and so forth me. However, looking back I am convinced that those classes were extremely helpful to me as a Minister and Counselor.

One of the oldest saws of research statistics is that there are "Liars, dang liars and statisticians", implying that we can make stats say almost anything we want. That is only true if we are explaining something to a person who knows nothing about how data can be manipulated.

The lesson for us is to remember that the research contained in the Reveal Book are not as valid as the Bible nor do they replace Holy Scripture. However, the gutsy approach of Willow Creek can be very useful to check up on how we are handling holy matters in a practical way.

For example, I was teaching in Singapore at the TESS Bible School and unconsciously using an Americanism that was offensive in the Chinese culture. Hoe Sing Ho, one of the brave students, took me aside and let me know what I was unconsciously doing. That was research in action and I stopped the offensive gestures.

Willow Creek's research is not perfect but it can give them and us cause to evaluate what we are doing to disciple and equip the saints to grow up into adult believers. The data SEEMS to indicate that they, and several other congregations, were not doing an adequate job of taking their people beyond the Baby Stage of Christian Growth.

Such feedback is cause for a pause and . The data did indicate that there was a spiritual growth continuum.

Reveal shows a Four Stage Growth Process:
1. Exploring Christianity: Interested but not committed
2. Growing in Christ: Attending, learning
3. Close to Christ: Attending and Giving
4. Christ Centered: Sold Out

These stages may be inadequate explanation of the dynamic process of faith but it is a good beginning. The next time, the surprising difficulty of growth and the questions it raises for all of us.

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