Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Revisiting REVEAL (Again)

The folks at Christianity Today's Out of Ur blog are revisiting the REVEAL survey phenomenon by posting University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright's summary of his original 11-part analysis of the study.

The summary may be summarized thusly:
The type of survey used by REVEAL has its uses, but it’s not well suited for evaluating the effectiveness of a complex institution like a church. It’s not that REVEAL’s findings are wrong, rather they are highly inconclusive. In fact, if I had to make a judgment, I would interpret the findings as generally supportive of what Willow Creek is already doing.

Technically, REVEAL used a cross-sectional survey with no comparison group and no randomization. This means they surveyed people once during a given period of time—it's like taking a snapshot of a group of people. It’s the tongue depressor of survey methodology—a good place to start, but not a very powerful tool. While this type of survey does a good job in describing peoples’ characteristics, it doesn’t explain them. It describes “what” but doesn’t explain “why.”

And most of us know that "why" question is a big one. The natural answer in the context of the REVEAL churches appears to be "because there is a deficiency in our programming somewhere."

Jonathan Leeman is reviewing the REVEAL book over at Church Matters.
Part One of his survey is here. You'll have to work backwards, blog-style, as he is currently on Part Five.

Leeman is the Director of Communications for the Mark Dever-founded 9 Marks Ministries, one of the most influential and important gospel-driven church resource organizations in the nation.
But some of what Leeman says about REVEAL may surprise you.

Returning to "Reveal"
You Can't Program Discipleship

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