Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pastors’ attitudes towards Biblical exhortations in church based ministry

Hello again and welcome back to my blog! We’ve been examining the growing number of studies that have shown religion has a positive impact on wellness in healthy and diseased individuals (1-6). The vast majority of these studies have been performed in countries in which Christianity dominates, either in a cultural or spiritual sense (2).

Historically the church, as it does today, often contends against extra-Biblical beliefs emerging from the current culture. Generally the sources are from secular pressures (often from academia, media, or the government) and then cultural pressures from inside the church.  For example, churchgoers may support truisms that seem Biblically based, but may deviate just enough to promote lies about God. Such cultural influences have caused even some seminaries to abandon the founding principles of the Bible!

The impact of these cultural pressures may be important to pastors because they can dilute the positive influence on wellbeing that religious adherence has demonstrated, as noted in the medical and psychological literature.

For this reason recently we surveyed graduates of three seminaries that hold to Biblical teaching (Master’s, Denver and Westminster) in spite of cultural pressures to drift from Biblical teaching. Questions were based on exhortations derived from Scripture or frequently accepted attitudes within the church but not directly sourced from the Bible. 200 pastors participated in the survey.

Our results showed that pastors generally believed it was ‘important’ to ‘very important’ for church members to maintain Biblical exhortations related to their attitudes towards: one another, the church body and leaders, their speech and the outside community. Extra-Biblical attitudes, although perhaps accepted or fashionable within the church, were more often deemed either ‘not important’ to ‘somewhat important’.  Look below at the results.

Table: Average ratings for questions (N = 200)
(Biblical exhortations are highlighted in gray and
extra-Biblical attitudes are highlighted in green)

Answer Options
Rating average
My congregation’s attitude towards other members should be expressed by:
I John 3:11
An “agape” type love consistent with the Bible
Galatians 6:2
Bearing one another’s burdens
James 5:16
Praying for each other
O’Day, 2014
Helping others find their spiritual gift(s)
Colossians 3:16
Encouraging each other to godliness
Easley, 2006
Participating in an accountability group
Ephesians 4:3
Maintaining the unity of the body of Christ
My congregation’s attitude towards the church should be that each member:  
Romans 12:1
Serves God through the church
I Thessalonians 1:2
Is grateful for fellow members, lay leaders and pastors
Van Auken, 2013
Desires more church programs, larger facilities, greater membership
Jennings, 2013
Desires a greater emotive worship experience
Thumma, 1996
Assures success of church organized programs by their participation
Acts 2:42
Views it as a source of: prayer, praise, teaching, fellowship and community outreach

0=not important; 1=somewhat important; 2=generally important; 3=very important

Why are these findings important?

Ø  These results should encourage church leaders because they demonstrate that a substantial group of church pastors recognize the importance of maintaining fidelity to Biblical teachings. To our knowledge this is the first time a survey has shown that pastors trained in a Biblically adherent seminary maintain a current focus on Scriptural exhortations.

Ø  Church leaders can take comfort that extra-Biblical attitudes are deemed generally less important by pastors. These data should encourage both pastors and church leaders to maintain their focus on strong Biblical teachings that are associated with an improvement in wellbeing in many religion and wellness studies.

Ø  This should inspire seminaries not to bend their theological stance with cultural trends. Such seminaries will produce Biblically adherent pastors who will tend to maintain these teachings, thereby providing the best chance of promoting physical and mental health.

This study showed that individuals trained in seminaries that teach Biblical principles continue to hold to those principles once they become pastors.  As shown in the medical literature, these principles contribute to improved wellbeing.

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

WC Stewart

1.      MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of community service to personal wellbeing. Community Ment Health J 2014;50:577-582.
2.      Stewart WC, Adams MP, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. Review of clinical medicine and religious practice. J Relig Health 2013;52:91-106.
3.      MacIlvaine WR, Stewart WC. The apologetic value of religion and wellness studies. Christian Apologetics Journal 2013;11:65-83.
4.      Dehning DO, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of religious adherence to attitudes regarding diabetes. J Christian Nurs 2013;E1-E11.
5.      MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2013;19:251-255.
6.      Stewart WC, Sharpe ED, Kristoffersen CJ, Nelson LA, Stewart JA. Association of strength of religious adherence to attitudes regarding glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Ophthalmic Res 2011:45:53-6.

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