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Lifeway Survey Pushes Racial Narrative

On February 18, 2022, Lifeway Research released survey results regarding racial diversity in the church. They survey about 1000 pastors across America every four years to study the trends on racial diversity in the church as it pertains to pastoral attitudes. In their article, they clearly exhibit their Marxist bias against Critical Race Theory and towards “diversity” as a goal within the church. Naturally, it is necessary that we analyze their findings as there are still notable trends worthy of discussion.

On monoethnic churches, Lifeway finds that 76% are monoethnic, down from 86% in 2013. When it comes to striving to achieve racial diversity in churches, 80% strongly believed in this goal in 2017, but this fell noticeably to 68% in 2021. They did detect that pastors in the south were more likely to agree with this goal than those in the west.

On Critical Race Theory being a threat or concern, Lifeway found that more pastors were concerned with Racism than CRT within the church. Within this data, they found that the more college educated the pastor, the more likely they were to find Racism as the greater threat than Critical Race Theory. By a margin of 70% to 38%, mainline denominations were significantly more likely than evangelicals to view racism as the greater threat.

On preaching Racial Reconciliation, Lifeway found that a quarter of pastors rarely or never preach on it while over 40% do so several times a year. Their data was stratified to suggest black pastors disproportionately preach on the subject several times a month. Educational background was also correlated with greater frequency of preaching racial reconciliation. Lifeway contends that this trend is moving in the right direction but Scott McConnell, who is the executive director at Lifeway Research implies that a quarter of pastors are derelict in their duties. McConnell states that “Attitudes, cultural traditions, and friendships within the community do not change by themselves. If someone doesn’t call for change, it won’t happen. Most pastors are casting this vision, but about a quarter of pastors aren’t.”

Analysis

With polling, the first order of concern pertains to the sample and how they interpret the questions they are being asked. Especially with loaded terms like “Racial Reconciliation,” diversity, and Critical Race Theory, how a respondent interprets the survey questions is at their discretion. This would probably explain why fewer pastors surveyed strongly believe in striving for racial diversity in churches. By their own data and analysis, they suggest that there has been little change in pews in terms of diversity, but the fact that fewer prioritize it suggests that these terms hold increasingly negative connotations within their sample size.

The other factor regarding the sample size is that they surveyed apostate—sorry—theologically liberal mainline denominations which naturally sways the polling results in favor of the preferred narrative. Doubtless there would be dramatic differences if it were a poll of exclusively SBC pastors or exclusively UMC. Even within this wide net, they still found some data to suggest that plenty of pastors are not buying into the narrative, which Scott McConnell laments as problematic.

That 29% recognizes the threat of Critical Race Theory in the church is a positive sign, considering how few were cognizant of the concept only several years ago. It is important to remember that their sample is intentionally designed to skew the data in favor of recognizing racism as the greater threat. Lifeway would want you to believe that CRT is a fringe concern and racism is still seen as the primary threat facing a near majority of pastors, which they encourage you to tweet out from their website. To them, racial reconciliation is what Paul did when addressing the conflict between Jew and Gentile. Never mind that it was the Jews who were seeking to impose the entire law while it was the Gentiles who would want to discard it completely. What pastors interpret as racial reconciliation is unlikely influenced by this first century dynamic, but rather the American political climate, whereby racial reconciliation implies a need to address systems, disparities, and other perceived inequalities.

Racial diversity within individual churches is a manufactured crisis that Big Eva institutions project unto the church. There is nothing wrong with Hispanics wanting a Spanish speaking service or Koreans likewise. White suburban and rural churches should look like their communities, not modern television commercials. In the context of affirmative action, churches should not prioritize a candidate’s melanin content when selecting pastors to “diversify” their predominantly white church nor allow Big Eva institutions to impose on them either. Ironically, Lifeway found that “other ethnicities,” which means not black or white, were the least likely to see the need for racial diversity in the church.

Probably the most actionable trend for churches to observe is that of educational background. Those who were more “educated” were more likely to believe the racial narrative Lifeway pushes. Those with no degree or a bachelor’s degree were less likely, and this was consistent throughout their survey. Going forward, church pastoral selection should deemphasize educational background, as the higher level of degree is more associated with liberal thought. This should be unsurprising given the state of seminaries in America. I have already written that pastors need to be more like truckers. Jesus chose fishermen, not pharisees, to make up the overwhelming majority of the apostles. Only Paul was highly educated amongst them, and his conversion required intense confrontation. Having practical, everyday experience makes pastoral candidates both more relatable and more cognizant to their congregants’ needs. It should be seen as a positive that they have a four-year education combined with real work experience, not a negative.

Reject academic elitism from the pulpit. Better yet, reject Lifeway as well.

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