Associate professor Bradley Wright from the University of Connecticut is talking again about Christian researchers who focus too much on the negative in surveys about Christians. In his latest series on “The creation of a useful, but inaccurate, statistic” he writes,

In presenting these data, Barna emphasizes the low favorability scores for Evangelicals. He writes that non-Christians are “dismissive” of evangelicals, and that “one reason why evangelical churches across the nation are not growing is due to the image that non-Christian adults have of evangelical individuals.” One could make the opposite case just as strongly—while only 22% had favorable impressions of Evangelicals, only 23% had unfavorable impressions. These data could be spun either way, the cup being half-empty or half-full, and Barna chooses half-empty

He goes on in part 2 of the series to make the following observation.

Yesterday I recounted a study conducted by the Barna Group. This study can be summarized as positive, negative, or ambiguous in its portrayal of Christians. Positive in that born-again Christians were found to be well-regarded, negative in that Evangelicals were not, and ambiguous in that different reactions were given to what is essentially the same group (i.e., evangelical and born-again Christians).

As such, these data provide almost a Rorschach test in which people can see what they want about Christians. It’s informative, then, to see how commentators, both within the church and without, have used these data. Without exception, they emphasize the negative story, and each has different incentives to do so.

It’s a nagging question for me, “why do some Christian researchers always seem to emphasize the negative which, in many cases, only serves to tear down the Body of Christ?

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Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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