Translating the Great Commission

Produced by Barna Group in partnership with Seed Company, Translating the Great Commission examines aspects of Christian missions, including knowledge of the Great Commission, the definition of missions, the relationship of evangelism and social justice, and the role and value of Bible translation. As usual with Barna reports, Translating includes a mix of quantitative and qualitative research, together with expert Q&As and infographics. It offers a valuable snapshot of current opinion about these aspects of Christian missions.

Book Reviewed
Barna Group, Translating the Great Commission: What Spreading the Gospel Means to U.S. Christians in the 21st Century (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018).

Monday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Joy Qualls joins me on the Influence Podcast to discuss how to debate hot button social issues well. Perhaps Christianly is the better adverb to use. “In an increasingly pluralistic and polarized culture, this skillset is an absolute must-have for Christian leaders.”
  • We note a new Barna study about how parents’ giving patterns affect their children’s giving patterns. “Respondents who said generosity was extremely or very important to them were most likely to report having extremely or very generous parents. On the other hand, people who placed little or no importance on generosity tended to rate their parents as less generous.” Teach your children well!

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Wednesday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Stephen Blandino writes, “”Perspective is the difference maker in how we handle adversity.” And how! Read the whole thing!
  • We note a new report from the Barna Group about America’s most churched, unchurched, and dechurched cities. Pastors have their work cut out for them, for as our note says, “ust under 1 in 4 U.S. adults regularly attend services.”

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Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Kristi Northup offers advice from hard-won experience about how to respond when crisis hits ministry families.
  • I interview Peter Scazzero about emotionally healthy relationships.
  • We note a Barna Group research finding that nearly half of pastors have experienced depression.

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Wednesday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Karen Huber offers advice about how pastors can make sure their kids don’t run second to their ministries.
  • Yours truly reviews Multipliers (rev. ed.) by Liz Wiseman. Although this is a secular business book, I think it has application to church and nonprofit ministry contexts.
  • We note a Barna study indicating that 1 in 4 pastors struggle with doubt, especially early in their ministries.

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What I’m Reading Today

American Views on Terrorism: 15 Years after 9/11

“When asked how likely they think they would be the victim of a terrorist attack, most Americans believe they are either “not really” (52%) or “not at all likely” (20%) to be victims. However, almost a quarter believe it is “somewhat likely” (23%). This is a relatively large number…”

‘Consensus Statement’ to Force MDs to Kill/Abort

With Wesley J. Smith, I’m flabbergasted by a recent bioethicists’ statement that suggests physicians should not be given a conscientious exemption from participating in euthanasia and abortion, where those practices are legal.

Massachusetts: Churches may be covered by transgender discrimination bans, as to ‘secular events’

When it comes to banning discrimination against transgender persons, Eugene Volokh points out “where these rules are headed.” Hint: Some church events will be treated as public accommodations.

Free Webinar Links Pornography and Sex Trafficking

“The Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP) and guest presenter, Dr. Sandie Morgan, will host a free webinar at 12 p.m. (EDT) Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, and 9 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, to present the link between pornography and sex trafficking. Designed to empower faith communities to integrate strategic action plans to educate and protect children and families, Morgan will take an in-depth look at the fantasies of pornography that drive purchasers and lure victims into sex trafficking.”

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship

What do Americans look for when searching for a new church? According to latest report from the Pew Forum: “Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.” That’s news you can use.

The New Stealth Translation: ESV

Scot McKnight detects unwarranted complementarian-friendly translation in the new ESV Permanent Text Edition (2016).

Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church Ranked America’s Largest Megachurch With 52,000 Weekly Attendance

And it’s not the only megachurch that’s gotten mega-er. There’s a downside, however: “With the rapid growth of megachurches in the United States, a negative relationship between size and frequency of attendance could serve to accelerate aggregate declines in attendance,” according to Socius, the journal of the American Sociological Association.

The Secret Jews of The Hobbit

Meir Soloveichik argues, “The dwarves of Middle Earth, the central characters of one of the most beloved books of all time, are indeed based on the Jews.”

Inside the World’s Only Surviving Tattoo Shop For Medieval Pilgrims

I don’t have any tattoos (and don’t really want one anyway), but that 300-year-old stencil of St. George killing the dragon is pretty cool…

The Vatican unseen: inside the secret world of the workers – a photo essay

Because even the floors of St. Peter’s Basilica need an occasional waxing…

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Here are ten religious posts that caught my eye today:

Lee Strobel discusses how Easter killed his faith in atheism. If you’re interested in the topic, check out N. T. Wright’s exhaustive study, The Resurrection of the Son of God, which—at 740 pages is not merely exhaustive but exhausting…to hold, anyway. Or read Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, which is 22 pages shorter.

President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, and a reporter can’t help but note a political angle (in the penultimate paragraph). Personally, I cheer the president’s statement of faith. Raspberries on his politics, though.

Did the Last Supper occur on Thursday or Wednesday? I wouldn’t mind a few New Testament scholars weighing in with their evaluations…

Walter Russell Mead on how Christian faith matters in a world where the pace and intensity of change is so unsettling.

If capital punishment is a sin, is God a sinner (Genesis 9:6)?

Edward O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists are having a fight about the origin of altruism, specifically, whether group selection or kin selection best explains its origin. Interestingly, forty years ago, Wilson promoted kin selection as the best explanation. For me, this argument demonstrates how difficult it is to overturn scholarly consensus.

The Barna Group reports on what Americans believe about universalism and pluralism.

Historian John Fea is halfway through a four part series on “the Civil War as a battle between two ‘Christian’ nations”: Part 1 is “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.” Part 2 is “God’s Judgment Upon the South.” Fea is author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? Mark Noll has an excellent book on the Civil War you might want to read if you like Fea’s series: The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Ben Witherington posting a chapter-by-chapter critique of Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writings in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter2 , Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapters 7 and 8.  I’m reading the book too and hope to have a (much shorter) review up in the next few weeks.

James Hannam argues that science and Christianity can get on better than you think. I always thought they can get along just fine, but evidently there are some atheists who think otherwise. Hannam is author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, which I’m also reading and hoping to review in the near future.

“Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told” by Bradley R. E. Wright

Bradley R. E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010).

A few years ago, the Barna Group polled 270 non-Christians regarding their impressions of eleven different social groups. Only 22% of respondents held a favorable impression of “Evangelicals.” Evangelicals thus ranked tenth out of eleven on the poll, below lesbians (23%) but above prostitutes (5%). As this statistical factoid traveled through print and online media, it morphed into proof that American society as a whole, not just a small sample of non-Christians, held evangelicals in contempt. One blogger wrote: “Only prostitutes rank lower than evangelicals in terms of respect in the mind of the public.”

Brad Wright begins Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… with the story of this statistical factoid to make a point and to ask a question.

The point? Caveat lector. Statistics require interpretation. In the case of Barna’s poll, “Evangelicals” ranked tenth but “Born-again Christians” ranked third, indicating respondent confusion about what evangelicals are. (Door-to-door evangelists, perhaps?) Twenty-two percent of respondents didn’t even know what an Evangelical was. The “don’t know” response for all the other ten groups was 11% or less. Moreover, the poll’s sample was small. But even if its findings were accurate, what was their significance? According to the poll, 22% of respondents held a favorable impression, 33% no impression, 23% an unfavorable impression, and 22% don’t know. Only one in four respondents had an unfavorable impression of evangelicals. Given that all the respondents were non-Christians, is this so bad?

The question? Why do so many people believe the worst about Christians? The reason secular media reports negative statistics about Christianity is obvious: “If it bleeds, it leads.” People love to read bad news. If the bad news is the hypocrisy of Christians, so much the better for sales! But why do Christian media report the same negative statistics. “Why,” as a religion reporter once asked Wright, “do you evangelicals love to make up and say such bad things about yourselves?” The answer has to do with incentives: “Christian authors, speakers, and leaders will sometimes pass along inaccurate, negative information in their effort to help the church” (emphasis added). If only 22% of non-Christians hold a favorable impression of evangelicals, for example, then perhaps a more favorable impression will lead to more converts. Hence we see the flood of books and seminars about how to make a better impression on potential converts.

What if the state of Christianity in America is not so dire, however? Wright is associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and an evangelical Christian. The core of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… is an examination of the best statistical information on six topics: church growth, demographics, beliefs and practices, sinning, loving others, and non-Christian attitudes toward evangelicals.

The alarmist reading of the statistics on these six topics can be expressed this way: Christianity in America is dying. Christians are “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command” (an actual quote from a Washington Post reporter). American Christians don’t hold orthodox beliefs or practice spiritual disciplines anymore. They sin as much as non-Christians. They love less than non-Christians. And non-Christians hate evangelicals.

The best statistical information on these six topics leads Wright to conclude otherwise. As a teacher, Wright even offers a grade for each topic he explores. Here are his grades for the topic of sinning:

Divorce and living together B Relatively low rates, and less among frequent [church] attendees, but increasing over time
Sex A- Relatively low rates of adultery, premarital sex, porn; these decrease with [church] attendance
Drugs A Low rates, but no consistent changes with attendance. Need better data.
Youth’s behavior B Doing well in areas of sex, drugs, and stealing. Need to watch the fighting. Could do better with everyday honesty

The picture on some topics isn’t good. Wright gives Christians a C+ on “Loving behaviors,” writing: “Could act more charitably to others, but this does increase with [church] attendance.” And white Christians get a D on “Attitudes toward Blacks”: “Um, being black is not a sin,” he writes. “Gets worse with [church] attendance [you read that right, unfortunately], but improving over time [fortunately].”

Overall, Wright gives the church in America a B: “the church is doing well overall on the issues covered in this book. It’s not excellent, because many things could be improved, but it’s not average or worse, because in many ways the church is doing quite well.”

Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… is well researched, smartly written, and a good book for pastors to read before they preach the worst news about other Christians.

Highly recommended.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

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