Lizette Beard: [00:00] Podcasting from Nashville, Tennessee. This is Keep Asking, the weekly podcast that helps you dive in a bit deeper and wider into the research providing insights into today’s church and culture.
Lizette: [00:16] Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of Keep Asking. This is Lizette Beard, and I’m here with my colleague Scott McConnell, and Marty Duren.
Scott McConnell: [00:44] Woo woo.
Lizette: [00:45] Marty, welcome.
Marty Duren: [00:46] It is great to be here.
Lizette: [00:48] Today, we’re going to talk about who knows what. The intention, as we begin, is to talk about how research and data can help pastors, and suggestions Marty has for pastors as they approach data research. That kind of stuff, but again, it could just end up anywhere.
Marty: [01:08] It could spin out of control in a big hurry today.
Lizette: [01:11] Right, so before we spin completely out of control, let’s give up a sponsorship spot, and let Marty promote Pastor Chat.
Marty: [01:21] I would be happy to promote Pastor Chat, but I don’t know what that is.
Marty: [01:24]Why don’t I promote Pastor Talk instead.
Lizette: [01:27] I did that on purpose…
Lizette: [01:29] to just kind of…
Marty: [01:30] You’re the straight man in this duet here?
Lizette: [01:34] Yes.
Marty: [01:34] Pastor Talk is the new podcast of Lifeway pastors, and I am the most-of-the-time host. It’s my pleasure to interview a lot of different pastors, authors, professors, and miscellaneous people that I can scrounge up. We’re looking for tools and encouragement to help pastors and other church leaders shepherd their flocks well.[01:53] We dropped our 1st episode two days ago as of this recording, which was the 14th of March that we dropped. It will be every Tuesday. You can subscribe in iTunes, or Stitcher, or GooglePlay, or any of those other podcatchers. Pastor Talk.
Lizette: [02:08] Pastor Talk, with Marty Duren.
Marty: [02:10] Once in a while I play pastors.
Scott: [02:13] Pastors tend to have a gift for that.
Marty: [02:14] They do, but they’re good to listen sometimes too, so a podcast is fitting I think.
Lizette: [02:21] Why a pastor podcast? You have a lot of different interests.
Marty: [02:25] Yeah, and one of the reasons that we’re doing a podcast is because people are more mobile. Even though we think of people reading on their phone, and you can definitely read when you’re in the elevator, or you’re on a walk. Some people do. Being able to listen to stuff is also a convenience factor.[02:41] You can listen in your car. You can listen while you’re walking to work, or in the mall, or shopping, or cutting grass, or whatever you might be doing. Most episodes of podcasts, they’re 30 minutes or less. That’s a typical commute for us people. It’s just another way to give content that hopefully will help people be better at what they do.
Lizette: [03:01] You have an interest in pastors and a heart for pastors because you have…I really don’t know if I can actually say it out loud.
Marty: [03:10] I want to make you say it out loud.
Lizette: [03:11] You have a experience as a pastor.
Marty: [03:15] Yes, I have some experience as a pastor. I’m now by vocational. I’m on staff part-time at a church just outside of Nashville. I guess it’s a suburb. I don’t know do we actually think of Nashville suburbs? Do we think about it that way?
Scott: [03:27] It goes straight to country pretty fast.
Marty: [03:29] Yeah, it does. It really does. If you’re in the metro area, and you have suburban Atlanta friends, those are suburban Dallas, we don’t really think about it like that. It’s odd. There just different towns outside of Nashville.
Marty: [03:42] That’s where I’m on staff part-time, at one of those. I’ve been in ministry either full or part-time almost uninterrupted since 1989. I think there was a two year gap where I wasn’t employed as a minister, but I still preached and talked as long as the opportunities came along.
Lizette: [04:00] Just as a little bit of background, Marty and I have known each other for several years now. The very first time we met in person, I…
Marty: [04:08] You love telling that story don’t you?
Lizette: [04:08] We were sitting next to each other at Marty’s welcoming party. I was like, “Oh, that’s Marty.” We’d interacted via email in a couple of projects. I sat down and he was talking to somebody else, and I waited patiently. I just sat there and then he turns around, I put out my hand and I said, “Hello, I’m Lizette Beard. “He says, “I know,” and then turns back around and continues talking to the other person.
Marty: [04:35] That has been the foundation of our relationship, has it not?
Lizette: [04:38] Yes. If a little snark comes out…Marty’s interaction with me is not always pastoral.
Marty: [04:46] Everyone who listens should probably know that what was that just described is how most of her friends view their need to have a relationship with her. She consistently needs to be held in check.
Lizette: [04:58] All right. That’s fair.
Marty: [05:00] [laughs]
Lizette: [05:01] That’s fair. I get that. Marty’s one of our colleague here at Lifeway.
Marty: [05:09] We’re just like the Banana Splits.
Lizette: [05:11] I don’t even know what that means.
Marty: [05:13] Really?
Lizette: [05:13] Yeah.
Marty: [05:14] Scott?
Scott: [05:15] No, not.
Marty: [05:16] Seriously. Afterschool television in the ’70s.
Scott: [05:23] Oh, wow.
Lizette: [05:24] That’s my jam and I’ve no clue what you’re talking about.
Marty: [05:26] Well it’s on YouTube.
Lizette: [05:28] The Banana Splits?
Marty: [05:29] The banana splits, yes. Came on right before Gilligan’s Island.
Scott: [05:33] I watched that.
Lizette: [05:36] I was probably trying to catch Brady Bunch on too many different stations.
Marty: [05:39] I’m not even sure you were born yet.
Lizette: [05:41] That was good. That was really good.
Marty: [05:46] Christmas present from Marty.
Lizette: [05:46] Thank you pretty excited about that. Marty, I know that because you are in here with research people you’re going to just say, “Pastors need as much data as they can get all the time day in day out, and make all their decisions based on data.”
Marty: [06:05] Should I just say, “Amen,” now and we can go to another question?
Lizette: [06:08] That sounds good.
Marty: [06:10] I honestly can’t say how much data pastors need, but I can say that pastors should avail themselves with good research. We’re communicating in a day when #FakeNews is everything. There’s a lot of times that people don’t know what to think.[06:29] They don’t know what to believe about certain things or they read a headline and as we all know headlines sometimes say exactly the opposite of what the article actually says. I think when pastors or if you’re an assistant pastor and you lead a ministry in your church. [06:43] You’re always in front of leaders, other leaders or volunteers, it’s good to have solid content that get your point across or helps them understand the context in which they’re ministering. If there’s research on mental health that Lifeway Research has done for instance, and you need to address that in some way then you can access that at LifewayResearch.com I believe a long with a lot of other studies. [07:07] I’m using that as an example, and when you stand before your people in a sermon or stand before a meeting at your church and you say, “This information came from Lifeway Research.” There’s an authority there that might not be there if you stood up and said, “This came from an MSNBC poll.”
Marty: [07:25] There is a need for some authoritative information that we can share. Clearly Lifeway Research is a great place for that. I don’t know how to breakdown data. All I know how to do is read y’alls conclusions after you all have already broken down the data.[07:39] Having that information that talks about the percentage of people who experience this or the percentage of pastors who are struggling with this, that’s good information to have in order to bring some authority to your sermon, or to your position, or to the lesson that you’re giving, or whatever.
Scott: [07:55] Why do you think that some pastors and some church and ministry leaders don’t avail themselves of research data, and don’t bother to look to see what studies have been done?
Marty: [08:06] Off the top of my head I would say there’s two reasons, one is time. There’s such enormous time crunch in ministry whether you’re a full time, or part time, or a volunteer. If you’re pastoring then there are certain expectations, and there’s not always the time to look at every possible components that you can research for a sermon, or for a staff meeting, or something like that.[08:28] The other one is lack of knowledge. People just simply don’t know that that particular information is out there. What I would say is if you’re looking for good hard data to use on a regular basis even if it’s once a month you want to use a survey of some kind, then make LifewayResearch.com a go to place because you have a search bar there. [08:49] You can go in and type in anything, and all the studies that you’ve done and the surveys that you’ve done are there for people to see. A lot of times it’s a lot more in-depth on the site or you can download a full slideshow whereas a story that’s in Baptist Press or it gets picked up by the Washington Post is going to have two slides and two sentences and that’s it. [09:09] There’s just an enormous amount that’s involved in these surveys. I think ultimately it’s too busy and just not aware of what information is available.
Lizette: [09:21] Say you want to have some research any source, obviously you’re going to go to the bible first, Lifeway Research second.[09:27] Male1; I read those sentences in numbers. That’s what gets me primed to go do a Lifeway Research.
Lizette: [09:33] Let’s say you want to either blog or preach and touch on a topic that we don’t have anything on which would be the only reason you’d go to any other source.
Marty: [09:42] That stays exactly right.
Lizette: [09:43] If you just go to Google you can get who knows what. How do you triage the information that comes bombarding in on a computer screen? How do you sort through all that to get to the good stuff?
Marty: [09:56] First of all on the survey side if it’s something that Lifeway Research hasn’t done the next one in the line would be Pew and I guess the next in line will be Gallup.
Lizette: [10:06] Good suggestions.
Marty: [10:07] Those have been around for so long. They’re so consistent. They’re so trustworthy. They correct their mistakes if they make any. You don’t have to worry about them putting stuff out there just for fun…
Marty: [10:19] Or to gets clicks. When you’re looking for that kind of thing…They’ve got such a warehouse of information to look through that you can look over years of studies, or years of surveys, and that kind of thing.[10:32] As far as other information, for me, it’s always going as close to the source as possible. If I see a story that x is happening in Amarillo, and all of a sudden I see all these other websites that are talking about x happening in Amarillo, then what I usually do is try to go to an Amarillo television station website, and find out what’s actually going on in Amarillo. [10:54] If there’s something big enough in Amarillo for a hundred websites to pick up on, if it’s real, then some TV station in Amarillo, or radio station has already broken that story locally. If it’s on no website from an Amarillo news source, then the chances are, it’s sketch, and I’m not going to deal with it.
Lizette: [11:11] It’s sketch. Marty is so hip with the kids’ lingo today.
Marty: [11:14] The kids’ lingo. I don’t have on any like…What are those boots, those little boots that are laced up, and all that kind of stuff? I’m just a tennis shoe man.
Lizette: [11:22] Oh. I…
Marty: [11:23] I lost my hipster credit there.
Marty: [11:25] I can’t wear Vans anymore, because my feet hurt.
Lizette: [11:27] Oh.
Marty: [11:27] I’m an old man.
Scott: [11:31] You’re gellin’.
Marty: [11:32] Yes. I’m gellin’ with Magellan.
Marty: [11:35] The hipster means something different for old people than it does for young people.
Marty: [11:39] Hip ouster is more like it.
Lizette: [11:45] In general, broadening out to when your research process, not that you’re a research entity, but sermon prep blogging, what kind of sources in general do you go to if you’re the starting point? You’re not reacting to news, but you have a topic in mind, or something you’re wanting to communicate. What’s does that look like when you get started?
Marty: [12:14] Oh. That’s a really good question actually.
Lizette: [12:18] I love the surprise. I wish you could see the surprise on his face.
Marty: [12:21] Yeah. This is so unusual.
Marty: [12:23] I think about it, I wasn’t expecting a good question.
Lizette: [12:25] The thoughtfulness I was able to generate.
Marty: [12:27] Surprisingly, one place that a lot of people I don’t think go, where you can find an enormous amount of information actually already pulled out for you is Good Reads.
Lizette: [12:37] Yeah.
Marty: [12:39] People post quotes from books that they’ve read, they can post the quote by author. A lot of times when you search quotes by whatever, Albert Einstein or quotes on leadership, one of the top results you’re going to get are results that have been posted to Good Reads.[12:56] I did a search last week, I think it was on preaching or something like that, and there were amazing quotes that had already been culled for me. [13:04] I didn’t have to read a thousand books, didn’t have to go buy a book, they were already pulled together. As far as news stuff goes, I find it good to look for a long-form rather than the immediate, because so many mistakes can be made in the urgency of trying to get something online for people to see…
Lizette: [13:23] What do you mean by long-form?
Marty: [13:24] Magazine type articles that loop back around. For instance, I like The Atlantic. I think The Atlantic is a balanced source of information. They don’t usually come out with the breaking news.[13:37] Two weeks after the news is broken, there’s going to be a long-form article in The Atlantic that’s going to be much… Typically is going to be more broad, and more in-depth than the breaking story. [13:49] Sometimes, if I’m preparing a sermon I might mention the breaking story. If I’m going to deal with an illustration in-depth that’s a current story, I might look for a broader, or a later story to pull from that has more content. Does that make sense?
Lizette: [14:03] Yeah! No. That’s great.
Scott: [14:06] As we think about how our culture’s changing in the US, and how pastors are trying to stay in tune with that…
Marty: [14:12] I hadn’t really noticed.
Scott: [14:13] Hadn’t noticed that?
Scott: [14:15] When we come out with statistics that show that it’s changing, or we show that America’s kind of 50/50, divided on an issue, and especially if we’re showing that it’s changed to the point where a biblical worldview is in the minority, does that make it hard for a pastor? Are we kind of backing them into a corner with statistics like that that kind of say that the Christian view is not popular?
Marty: [14:42] I would hope not. I tend to believe that having as much good information as we can get, makes us better prepared to communicate as well as we can.[14:53] I don’t want to stand, and I don’t preach often. I’m not the preaching pastor at our church, but I’ll preach several times a year in the church where I’m a member, and then a couple times a year outside that. [15:05] I want to have as much ammo as I can before I release that sermon, or that talk, or whatever to the people who have gathered up to listen to it, or on a podcast or whatever. [15:18] There’s not enough information, or even negative sounding information that’s going to mess me up. What I think the challenge for pastors is, to be able to take information that the congregation might view as negative or harmful, or something like that, or less joyful than some other information, and still present it in a way that demonstrates that Christ is King, that The Kingdom of God has come, and that these things will not defeat The Church of God, or the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Methodist Church.
Marty: [15:52] The Church of the Living God, not the denomination. I think regardless of…If it’s gay marriage, or if it’s abortion rights, or whatever the survey, or the study happens to reveal, and whatever those opinions are on that information, it does not have to be presented to the congregation with, “Woe is me, I am undone.”[16:15] It can be presented, “This, this is where we are, this is how we can respond, and this is what God can do.” The scriptures never point us to hopelessness, it always points us to hope. [16:27] That hope is in Christ, and as long as we’re following him, and submitted to him, and leaning on him, then we can have a positive effect, regardless of how bad things are in the culture.
Scott: [16:35] Even to acknowledge that some of those non-biblical views are probably present in the room…
Marty: [16:40] Oh. Absolutely.
Scott: [16:41] As you’re sharing, and to be sensitive to that, not trying for the amen.[16:46] Marty Exactly. If it’s true in the world, it’s true in the building.
Lizette: [16:52] Oh. That’s…
Marty: [16:52] That’s absolutely true.
Lizette: [16:54] That’s really good. I’m kind of…
Marty: [16:55] You can Tweet that when we’re done.
Lizette: [16:56] Yeah! Absolutely.
Marty: [16:57] Attribute it to me. Don’t take credit for it.
Marty: [17:00] I know how you are.
Lizette: [17:01] I’ve got time…
Lizette: [17:02] To decide.
Marty: [17:03] That’s true.
Lizette: [17:03] I’m going to let a few days pass, and then take it…
Marty: [17:06] Yeah. You can change one word, and then get the copyright on it.
Marty: [17:09] That’s absolutely true. What pastors often don’t think about is, sometimes we want to be so firm in our condemnation of evil that we don’t realize that to people who maybe guilty of that, or struggling with it, even if they’re not yet guilty, it comes across as a condemnation of them, not the thing they’re struggling with.[17:32] Now, is that as fine line? Sometimes that’s a very fine line, and we don’t always pull it off well. I would say we need to go into it with the mind that whether it’s gay marriage, or abortion rights, or bisexuality, or whatever the current thing is, that there’s a better than good chance that there’s either a believer in the room that’s struggling with it, or an unbeliever in the room that’s given over to it, and we got to give them good news, not just bad news.
Lizette: [18:00] One thing that I’ve noticed with our colleagues in the office, or when people pop in, that you can be really tough on people, and I mean this in a good sense. When we’re talking about a cultural topic, a political topic, whatever, and you’ll push for someone to support whatever their claim is, you’ll ask for, “Give me details where you’re getting that?”[18:26] It’s good. People who like to argue — and I mean all of this in a very positive sense — and like to have those discussions are very drawn to you in a very iron sharpens iron. That’s way too much affirmation for one day, so I’m going to hold that…
Marty: [18:41] Could you please stop that about 30 minutes?
Lizette: [18:43] Yes, I know. As we’ve already established, you do not fulfill a pastoral role here at the office.
Marty: [18:54] That’s right. I don’t have a counseling office either.
Lizette: [18:58] That strikes me is how you’re wired, how you want to think, and how you expect others to think. When you are talking with someone who is in your church that you’re shepherding and pastoring, how do you balance that engagement for sharper exchanges of ideas without overly influencing them or overly discouraging them?
Marty: [19:25] If you’re thinking about it in church life, you might have three, even four conversations about the same thing with three or four different groups, and that conversation is going to be in three or four different ways. If you’re a pastor or on the staff and you have a staff meeting, you might have a conversation that is very much an iron sharpens iron.[19:47] You are really going after…and it might really not be doctrinal. It might be anything, but just say, because of what we’re talking about, you’re looking on how to articulate your church’s stands on something that people now are needing to know where do you stand. [20:03] You go into a staff meeting, and it’s bullets flying. I mean it’s everybody giving everything they have critical, not critical spirit, but criticizing, critiquing, picking apart, putting back together, and trying to get to a consensus way to communicate to the church what the position is. [20:21] Then, you might go to either an elder meeting or a deacon meeting, where you’re taking it to the next level of leadership, and you’re going to have a…It might be another straightforward conversation, but it may be more bullets flying, depending upon your situation, or it may be less, and then just processing that information. [20:41] Then, you go to a group of small group leaders or Sunday School teachers or something like that, and you present it. You’re not hiding anything. You’re just modifying the way that you present it, because you’re not coming at them a hundred miles an hour at this point. [20:53] Now you’re coming at people going 10 miles an hour, because they’re having to consume it in a completely different way. They’re not starting at the same place that the staff would have been starting. That is one of the biggest mistakes that pastors make in leading the church. [21:08] They have these conversations in the hall with their staff, in the staff meeting with their staff, in their studies with their staff, and by the time they get ready to present it to the church, they forget that the church hasn’t been in all of those meetings. [21:19] They’re not prepared for this content, and so for them, it’s just like it’s somebody damped a cement mixture full of concrete into the auditorium, and they’re completely ill-prepared for what the pastors thought, “Hey, we’re ready to go.” The church don’t even know what’s going on. [21:34] It’s the same way when you’re trying to establish any major part of an initiative or a position. You’re going to have different levels of conversation, each of which is a different type of conversation. [21:48] When we’re here in the office, I know typically — and I think everybody knows of me — what most people can take in a debate, and that’s really what we’re doing. We argue a lot, it’s really a debate, and then, what you’re doing? You’re just doing don’t say in that kind of a context. [22:07] When I go home, and have a conversation about some of this stuff with my wife, I don’t go at her like I would go at Bob Smetana, for instance, who’s screaming bloody murder, and New England Patriots and everything else, and nobody knows what’s going on except Bob. If I take that conversation home to Sonya, it’s going to be we’re sitting around the table drinking coffee or whatever, and we’re just talking about it.
Lizette: [22:32] Twisting that just a little, not your words, but when you are talking to a church member, and they are coming to some conclusions on these cultural issues that you react to and you want to lead them…I would think the personal desires, “I’d like to lead them to believe exactly like I believe, but I also want to lead them to Scripture.”[23:01] How do you approach that, just even in a one-on-one conversation where you see yourself, because I think that’s becoming more and more common in Evangelical Protestant Church today, “Oh, wow, look. We have some pretty big differences.” How do you do that within your own church?
Marty: [23:20] A couple of things. First, I think pastors really have to do a bang-up job of what is a first tier doctrine, what is a foundational doctrine of the faith. We’re talking about the Resurrection of Christ, the Virgin Birth, things that if you take those things away, it’s not even the Gospel anymore.[23:40] Then, you have to determine those second and third tier doctrines, what really is…Is your eschatology an absolute first tier doctrine, where the position you hold you believe is the only biblical position, and anybody who holds another position isn’t even biblical. [23:59] The version of the Bible that you use, CSB, do you have folks in your church who for them that’s a first tier issue, but for you it’s a third tier issue. First of all, the pastor has to determine what are the top tier issues where I can’t not only break, I can’t even bend on these. [24:20] These are what made Christianity Christianity, and on those you have to be prepared, as the proverbial thing is you have to be prepared die on that hill. You can’t give those away. You can’t give away the store there. [24:34] On the second and third tier ones, I think you have to be willing to acknowledge to whoever you’re conversing with in your church. Not only do opinions differ on this, but theologians don’t agree on x. [24:46] You have to allow them not only that you’re not claiming to hold any high ground on the area, but that nobody really should be claiming to hold the high ground on that particular point that you’ve got to be willing to agree with the person in your small group, and disagree with the person in your small group, on this particular area. [25:03] This is not my hobbyhorse, and you can’t let it be your hobbyhorse, and help them to form that level or that triage in their own mind of, “OK. Well, this top tier, this is second tier, this is third tier,” and then, from there, you can help them determine what’s the most important and least important, as you’re helping them think through a specific issue that they may come to. [25:26] Ultimately, there are going to be issues in which people leave local churches. I think of the gay marriage issue. [25:34] If you’re in a church that stands for a traditional biblical marriage, then you’re going to have some people in time are going to leave your church if you do not bend on that issue, if you do not ultimately say at some point, “Yes, it’s OK for two people of the same sex to be in a relationship and to be married,” or whatever the terminology is at that given time. Today it’s marriage. [25:56] If you do not bend on that, then at some point, you will have people leave the church, and you have to know that. You have to question on other issues that aren’t as biblically cut-and-dried. [26:07] How many people am I willing to have leave the church because I’m a Mid-Tribulation rapture guy instead of a Pre-Mil, or a-mil or some other mill, corn meal. Whatever your position might be, you have to delineate in your own mind, first, where are those lines before you can help people. Honestly, I think you have to do that before you can be honest with people and accept their view as one that’s worth either encouraging them in or warning them from.
Lizette: [26:37] Marty, I want to say thank you for a surprisingly insightful interview today.
Marty: [26:42] I’m glad to be here, and I don’t really understand why you see it so insightful, Lizette. That hurts.
Lizette: [26:49] That’s our very special episode of “Keep Asking” today, and check out Marty’s podcast, “Pastor Talk.” Please feel free to tweet to him any affirmations, warm fuzzy special quotes that mean a lot to you.
Marty: [27:07] It’s @martyduren, M-A-R-T-Y D-U-R-E-N.
Lizette: [27:10] All right, and we’re just going to let you have that space. Go out and rate and review his podcast. I know I can’t wait to do so…
Lizette: [27:21] I’m going to barrel out of here…
Marty: [27:23] You’ve been blocked.
Lizette: [27:24] I’m going to barrel out of here and make sure I get that taken care of. Thanks for listening…
Marty: [27:29] My pleasure to be here.
Lizette: [27:31] All right. See you all next time or talk to you next time. Bye.
Marty Duren is the executive editor and marketing manager of Lifeway Pastors and host of the podcast Pastor Talk by Lifeway, both ministries of Lifeway Christian Resources. Prior to Marty’s role with Lifeway Pastors, he was the Manager of Social Media Strategy for Lifeway and Content Manager for The Exchange. He is also a long time pastor, writer, and blogger/social media enthusiast. He and his wife Sonya have three adult children and one awesome grandson. Marty and Sonya live in the Nashville area.