Survey: The Theological Landscape of Southern Gospel

For several years, I have been curious about the theological and denominational makeup of Southern Gospel. I’ve even discussed specific aspects in previous posts. But I have never done anything quite like this.Β Here is a nine-question poll intended to shed light on the doctrinal and denominational makeup of our genre: [EDIT: This survey is now closed. Thank you for participating! The results are here.]

Responses are anonymous; no personally identifiable information (e.g. IP address / email address) is collected with the survey.

We will keep this poll open for about 48 hours, publishing the results Wednesday morning.

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23 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Interesting survey! Comments – My church is considered holiness. We have Wesleyan in the name, and that’s what I voted, but I’m under the impression there is a formally associated organization of Wesleyan churches (?) which we wouldn’t actually be part of. Numbers 6 and 8 were very difficult, and it looks like my memory’s gonna fail me now. πŸ™ One asked about the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t think any of His gifts have completely ceased, but you remember that “unknown” isn’t in the original. We believe that those apostles and disciples were speaking the actual languages of the people listening, and that the gift was for evangelization. I’d never describe myself as Charismatic, so I voted “I don’t know.” And there was another difficult one, but I’ve already forgotten and it won’t let me go back and look. Anyway, I am just commenting; I’m well aware no one could ever design a survey that would really cover all our variations!

    • Amy, I gave it my best effort, but I knew full well that I wasn’t going to succeed at even capturing every major category! πŸ™‚

      Yes, I think there is a formally constituted network of Wesleyan churches with a church hierarchy. But at the same time, I think that if your church is Wesleyan in doctrinal outlook, Wesleyan is indeed the best choice.

      I also know that many pastors and scholars – including the pastors of my own church – interpret references to tongues in the context of speaking languages known to the hearers. I used the word unknown because it’s a distinctive characteristic of the Charismatic and Pentecostal interpretations (speaking in languages that do not exist in any human form). I was just trying to represent their viewpoints as they would represent them – something I did in a number of other instances, of course, when describing a position I wouldn’t personally agree with.

  2. What about the earth merely being “void” and full of “darkness”, as the Spirit hovered over the waters…and God creating life subsequently in a literal 6 days? That wasn’t an option.

    • Granted. I believe that for every single question, there are more possible answers than I included. For the purposes of leaving this of a manageable length, I tried to limit the list to the options which I thought would garner significant percentages of the vote (say 10% or more). One need only look at the denominations list as an easy example of how it could have been far longer!

  3. I couldn’t go back to look, so I may not be saying these correctly, but could explain the difference between Calvanistic and Armenian . . . whatever that question was?

  4. Good poll…I’ll be interested to see the results.

    I did find myself wanting to pick a “neither” option that wasn’t there on at least one question.

    • Based on earlier discussions here, I suspect I know which question that was! πŸ™‚ I really should have added a “none of the above”-type answer to each question. Sorry I didn’t think of it in time!

      • Yeah, I was trying to vague enough so that discussion wouldn’t flare up again. πŸ™‚

      • Thank you! πŸ™‚

  5. The first 50+ survey results are in. The most interesting thing so far: It’s approximately neck and neck between those who believe the miraculous sign gifts are continuing and that they have ceased.

  6. interesting survey, i’ll be looking forward to the results!

    I concur with amy, I am not a “charismatic” but am not a cessationalist either πŸ™‚ (just in case it helps the data haha)

    • So you would be a continuationist? You would believe that they haven’t ceased, but don’t necessarily agree with how the charismatics promote and employ them?

      I meant answer 1 there to be “continuationist OR charismatic,” but not getting the OR in was a typo.

      • That’s what I would have voted, then. I just voted Don’t know, I think. Nobody’s mentioned my other problem one yet and it hasn’t come back to me!

  7. A distinction has to be made between two entities in this discussion
    The non-affiliated, local church whose is answerable directly to God.
    An denominational affiliated church that could start with the local church to sectional, district to national and international. All levels are answerable to the higher level. All levels are answerable based instructions as outlined in the Bible.
    Within any given denomination, terminology that goes with positions like elder, teacher, presbyter, bishops, board, trustee or pastor has different meaning or level of respect to the membership.

    The working of the manifestations of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with the outward displays of praise and worship has no respect of churches and denominations.
    The church sign out front is not always a true thermometer of the life of the church inside the building.

    I would THINK most people attending a southern gospel music concert would be more interested in the end result of the message given during the concert.

    • I’m not disputing that results matter. I just think this is the sort of thing that would be quite interesting to know. πŸ™‚

      • What? Interesting? Not fascinating? πŸ˜‰

      • πŸ™‚

    • That was it! I think there are multiple valid forms of guiding a church… Haven’t even thought about it a lot and would have voted Don’t Care as long as an individual isn’t railroading his own ideas on some things beyond what the Bible teaches.

      • I realized after putting it up that I should have included a multiple of the above option!

  8. Over 100 survey responses in, the spiritual gifts question is still extremely close – a two-vote difference right now.

    Of course, it’s not the only close one – church size, for instance, is remarkably close between the two smallest options – but it is certainly surprising!

    • Interesting survey!

      On reflection the bias towards the smaller end of the ‘congregation’ spectrum is not surprising.
      I would have imagined the typical SGM devotee would NOT be a mega-church attender.

      The closeness of the ‘spiritual gifts’ question IS surprising – to me anyway – I had pictured the southern gospel demographic as conservative Baptist leaning and semi-cessationist at least. Especially so when the question was worded with a slant towards ‘non literal’ language. You didn’t use the word ‘ecstatic’ Daniel, but presumably a good percentage of the pollsters lean towards that definition of “tongues”?

      Personally not πŸ™‚ but a most interesting survey nonetheless.

      • That was also my assumption about the SG demographic, which is why I found those numbers so surprising. As we near 200, cessationists have pulled ahead, but it’s still pretty tight.