Behind the Curtain of Research…

Well, it’s crunch time and I’m half done organizing my 200+ pages of research into outlines for my talks at the upcoming conference.  I’ve got 2 done, and I’ve got 2 to go.  It’s getting down to the wire, but I’m confident I’ll have something great when it’s all done. This afternoon I’m working on my synthesis of 4 centuries of history into a 45 minute talk. Oh boy! ga_sonya_burger Well, I’ll make this quick (and full of spelling and grammar mistakes…)and give a little glimpse into what you won’t see or hear when I’m speaking.

I’m talking about the stuff that doesn’t make it in.

The stuff that gets edited out in the process of research.

Here’s one example that I just slugged through and left me all disappointed: I found a great quote that I couldn’t use after I checked it out and found that it was either unverifiable or made up (and I try hard to not share information that I cannot verify).  The quote is apparently from John Wimber:

“In a church-planting seminar in 1981, Wimber said: ‘Calvaryites [Calvary Chapel attendees] are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word. I know that sounds a little dangerous, but frankly they’re very Pharisaical in their allegiance to the Bible. They have very little life, and growth and spontaneity in their innards. Sometimes they’re very rigid and can’t receive much of the things of the Lord.’ “

I found this quote here: It sounds like a ringer of a quote and it would be great if I could use it, but I want to make sure it’ s for real. So, here’s a little insight into what happens with information I don’t use:

1.  I grab the distinct phrase “‘Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word” and plug that into Google.

2.  I look for a link in a book (i.e. Google books) mostly because published stuff is more accurate than stuff on random web pages (but I still don’t trust anything because it’s published). I find this link:

– It’s Hank Hannegraff, so I’m guessing it’s relatively reliable.  Still, as a rule of thumb, I don’t trust anyone when it comes to research.  I want to find the original source and read information first hand.  That means from the original author who said/wrote it, not someone I like or respect who cites it.

–  Sadly, the link doesn’t open on my browser for some reason so I’m off to another link.

– I find this:  It has the quote at the bottom and gives me a source: (John Wimber, “Healing: An Introductions,” (audiotape no. 5) and “Church Planting Seminar,” as quoted in Stephen F. Cannon, “Kansas City Fellowship Revisited”)

– Now I’m looking for an actual article.  Things are looking up.

Thumbs up

3.  I end up searching the title and end up here:

– I find: Stephen F. Cannon, The Kansas City Fellowship Revisited: The Controversy Continues, and see that it was originally printed in The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 10, No. 4, Oct.-Dec 1990, which sounds good.  Peer-reviewed academic journals are usually fairly reliable sources of information.

– I look at footnote 14 in the article (John Wimber, “Church Planting Seminar,” cited in Testing the Fruit of the Vineyard, by John Godwin.) and that then takes me to a different article. Now I’m starting to get nervous. When quotations get twice removed or more, I immediately start having questions of credibility.

– As a side note, seeing that I’ve never heard of “The Quarterly Journal”, I look it up (along with the article title) and find this:

– There, I see a lousy website realize that this is not a peer-reviewed academic journal.  It’s just a glorified newsletter with long articles.  The fact that they’re selling their articles on CD-ROM also tells me that these folks aren’t exactly on the cutting edge of technology. That isn’t wrong per say, but it immediately makes me nervous. I’m guessing it’s a small ministry with incredibly limited resources (which more often than not means a semi-reliable ministry). I search the page and find the article listed, but it is not readable on that website.

4.  So, I go back and search Google for the article title, along with the author name, and get here:

– First off, it’s a lousy website (which again makes me nervous: people who don’t care about presentation, more often than not, don’t care about other things like integrity).

– I look at footnote 15, and here it is: “John Wimber, Church Planting Seminar, Tapes I, II, III, IV, V. March 28, 1981.”

– So now I’m glad I did my research, since this quote is unverifiable and is far too questionable to use.  I mean, it’s a single quote and I’m supposed to search through FIVE tapes to find it? This guy doesn’t know how to do proper citation, and that makes me suspect that he’s either a bit of a dip or lying…thus I am really suspicious of his credibility.*

Thumbs down

Am I being a bit harsh?

Let me explain a tad:

– The whole point of citation is credibility.  You want people to be able to verify that you’re not making things up, hence the need for specific citation. That gives you credibility as a writer and researcher. We don’t all do that perfectly, but we should try. With the article where my research ended up, I’m apparently going to have to listen to 5 hours (or more) of cassettes to find a single quote, and I imagine that when I get there, I’ll either not find it or I’ll discover that it’s ripped out of context.

– I’m going to skip that whole headache and simply ignore the quote.  The author may be credible or may not be, but he’s clearly not expecting anyone to try to verify the quote, so I’m going to ignore his research and simply be annoyed that he wasted my time.

– That’s one reason why I stay away from sites like I find that though those sites may offer some good information, research trails that end there end in mystery more often than not.  They tend to rely too much on information from sources that are next to impossible to find (out of print teaching tapes, pamphlets that are as rare as the ark of the covenant, class syllabi, etc.).

In my writing, I try to link stuff to live articles (meaning current stuff that is working, like in this very post). Sure, blogs and websites change over a period of years, but I write my stuff for immediate usefulness (where as, with the conference, since it’s going to be more of a lasting resource, I’m sticking with almost exclusively mainstream print material for my research; books that are readily accessible).  When my stuff is first posted, I try to make sure that my readers can go through my work and verify what I’m saying. My analytics tell me that very few of my readers do, but I ultimately don’t provide citation and documentation for them; I do it for God and my own conscience.

The internet is full of unreliable “scholars” who do build their blogs or reputations on gossip or misinformation, knowing that most people don’t really care to track down the truth of a juicy story or damning detail.   There are far too many folks disseminating information that think they’ll get a “well done, good and faithful servant” for just alerting people to spiritual dangers, regardless of whether the details are true.

I’m pretty convinced that they’re dead wrong, but the type of folks I’m thinking of likely wouldn’t take correction from Jesus himself. Jedi Jesus Christians should be people of truth.

Christians should be people of integrity.

Christians should have nothing to do sneaky half-truths or misrepresentation, even with regards to their enemies.

That involves a whole lot more work than just passing on juicy or damning statements that apparently come from people you dislike .

That involves checking those statements: tracing down original sources and seeking to verify the authenticity of those statements.

That also means not passing on juicy or damning statements that cannot be confirmed.

Sadly, that means that for fellows like me, a short blog article (never mind a long research project) often takes 15 minutes to read and 15 hours to produce; half of that time (or more) is involved in sorting out details and not including stuff that we imagine would get more traffic to our sites and might earn us a bit more fame.

Hopefully, that will earn a “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Working for the Weekend” Unger

*Also, someone along the citation chain is unreliable (or lying) since the citation I found in step 2 said the quote was from “audiotape no. 5” but the original source citation does not say what tape the quote is from.   That’s suspicious (though it probably comes from confusing footnote 13 and 14 in the article I found in step 3:  I try to assume mistakes and not idiocy or intentional deceit.  I don’t always succeed, but I try. Gary 2014 HeadShot


7 thoughts on “Behind the Curtain of Research…

  1. Christians should be people of truth.
    Christians should be people of integrity.
    Christians should have nothing to do sneaky half-truths or misrepresentation, even with regards to their enemies.
    That involves a whole lot more work than just passing on juicy or damning statements that apparently come from people you dislike.

    But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.
    1 Corinthians 11:31 -NIV

  2. Can’t believe the incredible amount of time you invest in a project like this. It’s reassuring to know that if it has your name attached to it with reference to a quote, that I can take it to the bank.

    • Thanks Ed!

      I’m glad the work inspires confidence, but don’t ever trust words just because I say them. The reason I provide links and sources is for you to check things out for yourself!

  3. Hey Lyndon,

    We’ve never met but I’ve been a follower if your blog for several years. You also did briefly meet my daughter last year as Kristin Bonneville is my wife’s sister and last summer my daughter Grace stayed with them in Greendale for a while.

    Anyway, I came across this article today that I thought you might get a kick out of. There are some good names on the list and there are some not so good names


    Sent from my iPhone


    • Wow.

      John MacArthur is #82? That’s amazing he even made the list… But he got beat by Chuck Norris (#50) and Michael Sweet (#39 – lead singer from Stryper)?

      And Albert Mohler, president of the biggest seminary in the world, didn’t make the list at all?

  4. Pingback: A Good and Bad Game | The Gaming Development Journey

  5. Pingback: Joyce Meyer, Jesus and Scholarly Integrity… | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

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