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The average pay of a senior pastor serving a Southern Baptist church in America for 2012 was $60,774.  That’s for pastors that live in church housing.  For those who don’t, the average is more like $72,840.  That doesn’t include cash payments that most pastors get as reimbursements (like for mileage, conference reimbursements, books, etc. That’s the synopsis from SBC Voices. LifeWay and GuideStone collaborate on the compensation survey. The  latest is available here. Thoughts? Does this strike you as high, low, or just right?
Todd Subscribe to me on YouTube
   
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OK… cut me some slack… it’s really difficult to create a headline with the words ‘vagina’ and ‘LifeWay’ in such close proximity. It’s the best I could do. But have you been following the controversy involving Rachel Held Evan’s new book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” and Lifeway? There have been a ton of internet stories about LifeWay’s decision NOT to carry the book in their retail stores.  (This, for a Christian author, is a MAJOR blow… since LifeWay is the largest Christian retail outlet in the country.) Anyway… it all started with a blog post a long while back from Rachel about how her publisher (Thomas Nelson) wanted her to take the word ‘vagina’ out of her book so it would have a better chance to be sold in stores such as LifeWay. Evans refused. And LifeWay is not carrying the book. But LifeWay says it’s not because of the word ‘vagina’.  In fact, I’m not sure that LifeWay has given a reason as to why they are not carrying the book. So… bloggers being who they are, have categorized this as ‘vagina-gate’. In fact, some fact-checking by our good friends at Christianity Today has broken the news that LifeWay currently sells books that have multiple references to the word. To prove their point, here’s part of their findings: A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Douglas E. Rosenau 86 (plus images) The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment by Clifford & Joyce Penner 73 (plus images) The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverley LaHaye 62 How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex by Lenore Buth 42 The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) by Sheila Wray Gregoire 19 The Body Book by Nancy Rue 6 (at least in the 2000 edition; LifeWay’s is the 2012 edition and was not available for review) Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex by Josh and Dottie McDowell 6 And there are at least 14 more! My questions: 1.  Whose job was it to scour the list above and count the number of times vaginas are being referenced? 2.  How much does that job pay? 3.  How does LifeWay make their decisions on what to and what not to sell? 4.  I wonder… how much scuttlebutt will there be in SBC circles now that this list has been published to have ALL of these books banned from LifeWay stores. 5.  It’s been nearly 13 years since Tim & Beverly LaHaye’s erotic thriller “The Act of Marriage” came out.  It referenced ‘vagina’ 62 times in ways that still make Mark Driscoll blush.  I haven’t read Rachel’s book, but can’t imagine that it is quite as graphic as a couple of passages I remember reading in the LaHaye’s book years ago.  Why the seeming double standard? In the end… I really don’t care.  And in fact, I think it’s rather silly. I feel bad for Rachel that her book is missing some shelf space.  And I feel bad for LifeWay that they’re getting bad press (but they knew it had to be coming when they refused to carry the book and give their reasoning.) I’m sure this quote from Rachel didn’t help matters any: “I don’t know if they were more offended by my vagina or my brain,” she says with a laugh. “The only thing I know is that my editor said, if you leave this word in, there’s a good chance LifeWay won’t carry it.” — Slate Quick.  Someone call A. Larry Ross.  Your services are needed. Your thoughts? More here. Todd
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Trends
What will the church need to deal with in the next 10 years? Ed Stetzer gives some thoughts: 1.  Churches that used to been ‘seeker targeted’ will find that many people just aren’t seeking that much anymore.  They have no ‘religious memory’ as Ed calls it.  That will force churches to come up with a new model to engage people like this. 2.  Churches will need to concentrate on the gospel.  That’s accomplished by a church thinking through what the gospel is and actually living it out.  It’s time to reassess and reorganize since we may find ourselves a little off track. 3.  Christians will rethink discipleship.  Stetzer argues that discipleship doesn’t need to be re-invented, but rather re-defined. 4.  Churches will need to be innovative and implement new ways of doing church.  Some churches are already doing that through things like multi-site and global initiatives.  But these things are still new to myriads of churches. My apologies to Ed for the synopsis.  You can read his actual thoughts here. But… what are YOUR thoughts?  What are the big things on YOUR church’s agenda for the next decade?
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Trends
A recent LifeWay Research study found that Americans with even a slight curiosity about an ultimate purpose to life are more likely to participate in worship services, while half of those who never attend church never wonder about life’s ultimate purpose. Approximately 75 percent of the 2,000 adults surveyed nationally indicate that they either agree or strongly agree with the statement, “There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.” However, 50 percent of respondents who never attend worship services disagree with the statement. “This contrast has significant implications for churches,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “It is no wonder that many of the unchurched are unengaged in church activity when they don’t believe an exclusive purpose exists for their own lives – in other words, why go to church to learn about God’s plan if you don’t think there is one.” The study examined three other aspects of meaning and purpose. More than two-thirds of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that the pursuit of meaning or purpose is a priority, but only half wonder about it each month. Seventy-eight percent agree “It is important that I pursue a higher purpose and meaning for my life” while 67 percent agree “A major priority in my life is finding my deeper purpose.” When asked, “How often do you wonder: ‘How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?'” 51 percent of Americans indicated at least monthly, including 18 percent who wonder about it daily. Thirteen percent wonder about finding more meaning and purpose yearly and 28 percent never think about it. The study asked two questions about how often people think of specific aspects of the afterlife, the first being, “How often do you wonder: ‘If I were to die today, do I know for sure that I would go to heaven?'” Thirty-one percent of Americans wonder about this at least monthly, including 8 percent wondering about it daily. Eleven percent think yearly about personally going to heaven and 46 percent never think about it. via Ultimate purpose and meaning: Some say they pursue it, others do not. // How does this study influence the people you are trying to reach that are far from God?
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Trends
The majority of Americans have a favorable impression of Southern Baptists, according to a recent LifeWay Research study. However, 40 percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of the denomination, more than a third strongly assume an SBC church is not for them, and the negativity is higher among the unchurched. The study was conducted in September 2011 after the president of the Southern Baptist Convention appointed a task force to consider a possible name change for the 166 year-old convention. The study indicates a segment of Americans have unfavorable opinions of Southern Baptists in comparison to other faith groups. However, with 53 percent being favorable toward Southern Baptists (including 15 percent very favorable), both sides need to be considered, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “On one hand it does look like the SBC has higher negatives than other faith groups – and the unchurched numbers are particularly disconcerting,” Stetzer said. “But on the other, most people don’t seem to be concerned either way because there is a level of indifference to denominations or religion in general.” In fact, two-thirds of Americans are without strong feelings in regards to all the Christian faith groups included in the survey with a third or less either very favorable or very unfavorable to them. via Study: Americans have mixed impressions of Southern Baptists’ identity.   Thoughts?
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Trends
Most pastors believe pornography has adversely impacted the lives of their church members, but almost half cannot estimate what percentage of their congregation views porn. That is the finding of a newly released survey by LifeWay Research of 1,000 American Protestant pastors. When presented with the statement, “Pornography has adversely affected the lives of our church members,” 69 percent of pastors surveyed agree. That includes 42 percent who strongly agree and 27 percent who somewhat agree. Nine percent somewhat disagree and 8 percent strongly disagree. Fourteen percent do not know or preferred not to answer. “Most pastors know pornography’s poisonous effects,” LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer said. “They’ve seen it destroy marriages, wreck lives and warp America’s moral compass when it comes to sexuality.” When asked to estimate the percentage of men in their congregations who view pornography on a weekly basis, 43 percent are unable or unwilling to respond. Of those able and willing to estimate, a majority (62 percent) say less than 10 percent, 24 percent say 10-24 percent, 10 percent say 25-49 percent and 4 percent say 50 percent or more. via Baptist Press – Pastors: porn a big problem among members – News with a Christian Perspective. QUESTION:  What do you think the percentage of porn use in your church is?  among men?  among women? How has porn affected your ministry in your church? Todd
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Trends
As consumers in the United States shift increasingly to online banking and bill payment, their electronic financial habits are spilling over into the church. A recent study by LifeWay Research found that 14 percent of all American Protestant churches offer online giving. The survey of 1,003 Protestant congregations was conducted in September 2010 and sponsored by LifeWay’s Digital Church partner ServiceU. It found that large churches are most likely to offer online giving and that for the most part, electronic tithes and offerings are a recent development. A majority (55 percent) of churches with average worship attendance of 500 or more offer online giving, along with 26 percent of congregations with attendance of 200 to 499. In contrast, just 9 percent of churches with 100 to 199 attendees offer online giving, as do 7 percent of churches with 50 to 99 attendees and 4 percent with less than 50 attendees. Two-thirds (66 percent) of churches with online giving have offered it for two years or less. That includes 26 percent who have offered it for about two years, 24 percent who have offered it for less than one year and 16 percent who have offered it for about one year. Nine percent of churches offering online giving have offered it for about three years, 4 percent for about four years and 13 percent for more than four years. More here… Has YOUR church used online giving?  How has it affected giving?  Positively?  What trends are you seeing locally?  Do they match up with this LifeWay survey?

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Controversy
Back in 2007, LifeWay Christian Stores (owned by the Southern Baptist Convention) decided to attach a sticker to certain books that said “Please Read with Discernment”.  Authors like Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and Brian McLaren all had their books tagged with the labels… and a warning:  that those books were “strictly for critical study or research to… understand and develop responses to the diversity of religious thought in today’s postmodern world.” Those labels are going away in 2011. According to a report in Christianity Today, LifeWay had been thinking of getting rid of the labels for some time.  They thought they would help readers, but just became controversial and ended up being “more trouble than they were worth.” In the end, according to Chris Rodgers, LifeWay’s director of product standards and customer relations, “We should all read everything with discernment.” [box type=”info”]What do you think? Should LifeWay continue or discontinue the “Read with Discernment” program? And since they are a Southern Baptist owned store, what SHOULDN’T they sell (if anything)?[/box] Todd
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