Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You Might Be An Evangelical If...

Have you been to a Billy Graham crusade?
As you may recall, I am teaching a 4-week Sunday School course at West Shore Evangelical Free Church entitled "The History of American Evangelicalism: 1960-Present."  My audience is West Shore's "Lifebuilders" class, a close knit group of mostly long-time West Shore members between the ages of 40 and 60+.  

Last Sunday was our first week in the series and I spent most of the class making an effort to define evangelicalism.  I introduced the Bebbington Quadrilateral and then, in order to illustrate that post-World War II evangelicalism is also a sub-culture, I gave them a quiz.  I should add that some of the questions I asked came from the various chapters in Randall Balmer's Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America.

Here were the questions:

1.  Do you attend a church of over 2000 people?

2.  Have you studied at, or do you work at, a college that identified itself as a "Christian college?"

3.  Have you seen the rapture movie A Thief in the Night?  (I could have probably asked if they read the Left Behind series of novels by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye).

4.  Have you been to any of the following Christian Bible conferences:  Word of Life, Camp of the Woods, Harvey Cedars, America's Keswick, Sandy Cove, or Rumney Bible Conference?  (Remember, this is an east coast group)

5.  Did you vote for George Bush in 2000 or 2004?

6.  Have you been on a short-term mission trip?

7.  Have you attended a Billy Graham or other evangelistic crusade?

8.  Have you read Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict?

9.  Have you read something by C.S. Lewis?

10.  Do you listen to Christian radio?

11.  Do you have a Thomas Kinkade painting in your house?

12.  Have you read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life

13.  Do you read or subscribe to Christianity Today?

I then told them that if they answered yes to more than half of these questions there is a good chance that they might be an evangelical.

So how did they answer? (There were about 30-40 people in the class)

1.  Nearly all of them attend a church with over 2000 people.

2.  About half of them were connected with a Christian college

3.  A handful had seen A Thief in the Night

4.  A very large majority had been to one of the Bible conferences mentioned

5.  I did not ask them to raise their hand on the George Bush question, but I would guess the number who voted for him would be very high.

6.  A very large majority had been on a short-term mission trip

7.  About a quarter of the people in the room had been to a Graham crusade or another evangelistic crusade

8.  About a quarter of the people in the room had read, or tried to read, Evidence That Demands a Verdict

9.  Nearly all of them had read C.S. Lewis

10.  Nearly all of them listen to Christian radio

11.  Only a handful had a Kinkade painting

12.  About a quarter of the people in the room had read Rick Warren

13.  And only three or four people read Christianity Today.

There were many evangelicals in the room.


On Monday afternoon I asked the same question to the six students now taking my History of American Evangelicalism class at Messiah College.  I know the comparison is far from perfect, but I thought the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home might be interested in the results.  It is also worth noting that one of the students in the class, a so-called "non-traditional student" is old enough to be in the Lifebuilder's class at West Shore Evangelical Free Church.

1.  None of the students attend a church of over 2000 people.

2.  All of the students (obviously) attend a Christian college.

3.  One of the students had seen A Thief in the Night (the non-traditional student).

4.  None of the students had been to the Bible conferences mentioned.

5.  I did not ask them about GW Bush since only the non-traditional student could vote in 2000 or 2004.

6.   Four of the six students had been on a short-term mission trip.

7.   Only the non-traditional student had been to a Graham crusade or another evangelistic crusade.

8.  Only the non-traditional student had read Evidence That Demands a Verdict, although one student said he tried to read McDowell's More Than a Carpenter and another student said that his parents read Evidence.

9.  All of the students in the class had read something by C.S. Lewis.

10.  Half of the students in the class listen to Christian radio.

11.  None of the students have a Thomas Kinkade painting.

12.  Two students had read Rick Warren.

13.  Three students either read or subscribed (presumably their parents) to Christianity Today.

Again, the responses of six students is in no way representative of evangelical young people as a whole.  Moreover, one of the students in the class is Catholic (she only answered yes to the Christian College and Lewis questions) and another student grew up in the United Methodist Church.  Yet it was a fun exercise.  I hope to share the student results with the Sunday School class on Sunday.  

Did you take the quiz?  If so, what was your score?  My score was 9. 

What should we make of these very-flawed, but interesting, data?