The newly formed LifeWay Research has scheduled four projects for this year, with results slated to be released each month beginning this month.
Brad Waggoner, director of LifeWay Research, said today's church leaders are "under-informed" but the new entity of LifeWay Christian Resources will get churches out of the dark on the state of the church and culture.
Church leaders being under-informed is "not necessarily their fault," according to Waggoner. "There is an abundance of available raw information and it may simply be a case of not having the time to wade through and process it all."
"I believe that is where LifeWay Research will be able to help by putting out studies of the relevant and more important issues, clarifying them in a succinct manner," he added.
This year, studies will focus on the prominence of Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention, the formerly churched (why they left church and what would bring them back), churches that are effective in evangelism over a 10-year period and why, and from which sources Southern Baptist churches draw ministry help.
"A couple of these projects are focused on churches within the Southern Baptist Convention, but that won’t always be the case," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. "We will eventually take a look at many areas of our culture and how the church and Christians relate. It’s not that we are just going to do good research, but we want to marry that research with a good biblical perspective of what is it that we are called to do as a church."
LifeWay will also conduct studies on Christian education and other transferable equipping information.
LifeWay Research was initiated at the inauguration of Thom S. Rainer as LifeWay's ninth president. Research had been conducted before but mainly for its own resources and is now being broadened to include churches and ministries within.
"I truly believe because of the type of information we are going to be providing, we have an opportunity to impact the way people are thinking," Waggoner said. "It might be strategic - getting people to take a look at the way they are doing things in their churches - or it may be a perspective change that comes from learning what people in the culture or people in the pew are thinking. Ideas often affect ministry approaches.
"At the same time, ministries that claim to be cutting edge often follow changes in trends uncritically and eventually that becomes detrimental to the church," he added. "We are going to be cutting edge, but we are going to examine information critically and theologically so that people and churches have solid information. We want them to avoid following something just because it 'works.' This leads to mere pragmatism. We must evaluate current trends through a biblical filter."
Eight projects are planned for completion by the end of 2007.