Can questionares and polling measure Christian faith?

May 18, 2009

Testing of faith; A pastor’s measure of spiritual development will be the basis for a nationwide poll
By Patrick McGee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Wednesday, August 4, 2001

What makes someone a Christian? A local pastor thinks he knows, and George Gallup Jr. is listening.

The New Jersey-based Gallup Organization plans to conduct a nationwide poll early next year based on the Christian Life Profile, a spiritual assessment test developed by the Rev. Randy Frazee, pastor of Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth.

The George S. Gallup International Institute, with Gallup as chairman, will coordinate the nationwide poll using about 30 of the 120 questions from the profile.

“I think it’s something that will work for the broad spectrum of Christians,” Gallup said. “It will provide some benchmarks for determining where a church or region is spiritually mature.”

Frazee said the nationwide poll will cost about $50,000 and will be financed by several prominent Christian research groups that he would not identify.

The profile is intended to reveal one’s strengths and weaknesses as a Christian through responses to questions that range from one’s sex life to how often one prays, reads the Bible and helps others.

Kevin Miller, editor at large for Leadership, a journal for clergy, said the profile provides pastors with a way to measure the spiritual well-being of their congregations.

“The genius of it is that virtually every church will tell you that they’re in the business of making disciples … but they have no idea how they’re doing, so they measure their activity on the basis of giving and attendance,” Miller said.

Based on responses to the questions, the profile can show, for example, whether one needs to pray more or read the Bible more or whether one should be more humble or more forgiving of others.

Gary Lawrence of Arlington said the profile helped him see that as a Christian he should share his faith more and be gentler with others.

“It immediately changed my approach,” said Lawrence, 45, a member of Pantego Bible, a nondenominational church of about 2,000 that recently moved from Arlington to east Fort Worth.

“The things that I had wanted to happen in my life actually got done,” Lawrence said.

More than 400 churches from around the country have requested copies of the profile, and some leaders say it will change the way they pastor.

The Rev. Al Dangelo, a leadership development pastor at River Tree Christian Church in Massillon, Ohio, said a pilot group at his church gave the profile high marks and the church will now offer it to more of the congregation.

He said the pilot group found the test provoked discussions about spiritual issues that previously were difficult for members to grasp.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Dangelo said.

The Rev. David Nemitz of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he’s using a version of the profile for a program aimed at getting newcomers more involved in the church.

“When I first read it, it was fabulous,” said Nemitz, pastor of adult ministries. “It was scriptural, and it was based on the commandments.”

Ted Wueste, an associate pastor of Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, said he and the pastoral staff are developing their own version of the profile.

“It was great to come see what someone else had done and kind of bounce some ideas off of it,” Wueste said. “We’re just looking at it from a different angle.”

Miller said the profile has already provoked a national dialogue.

“It’s starting, but nothing like what you’re going to see happen,” Miller said.

“I get an e-mail from a church every two or three weeks begging to be a lab test for the Christian Life Profile,” said Miller, one of several experts who reviewed drafts of the profile.

Frazee, who has a master’s degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, said the profile was based on the New International Version of the Bible. It was refined by experts, including Gallup and Miller, and reviewed by an ecumenical clergy group.

“What we’re doing is a way to do it. It’s not the only way,” Frazee said of the poll. “If you don’t like this particular one, come up with your own.”