Thursday, August 23, 2007

August 23, 2007

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8: 32


Do you believe there is such a thing? Knowing what you believe is vital to the Christian life. Yet many today don't have a clue what they believe nor do they know what is TRUTH. Such was recently proven by a pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He said his congregation appeared bored...he could see them week after week, talking, text messaging, sleeping, passing notes...and this was NOT just the youth! So he decided to do something to wake them up. He began by inserting mistakes into his sermons just to see if anyone was really listening. "At first he just changed up names from O.T. passages. For instance, he would switch "Ahab" for "Ahaz" or "Abishai" for "Asahel". No one noticed." Finally, after several weeks, he really took it up a notch. "When preaching from Acts 1:8, he told [them] that when Luke wrote "the ends of the earth" he was really just referring to Texas. No one in the church even blinked." When a long time member was asked if she had heard anything "strange" from the pastor lately, she admitted that she thought the part about Texas was odd, but "he is the pastor with the Bible training, so he must be right."

Have we become so dull of hearing that we miss things like that or is it that we do not KNOW the truth, therefore, it just goes right over the top of our heads? I think it is both, but to me it is a frightening commentary on where we are today.

Our churches are full of people who fill the pews Sunday after Sunday, but they have never progressed much farther than John 3:16. A recent Barna study seems to confirm this.

"The Barna survey categorizes people based upon their convictions about life after death and creates two additional faith segments: born again and evangelical Christians. These are not based upon self-identification or denominational attendance, but based upon their personal commitment to Christ as well as their theological perspectives. The percent of Americans whose beliefs are categorized as "born again" has tapered off somewhat: currently, 40% are born again Christians compared with 45% in last year’s study and 43% in 1997. Despite the slight decline in numbers, this still represents 90 million born again believers nationwide.

David Kinnaman, who directed the study, indicated that "most Americans do not have strong and clear beliefs, largely because they do not possess a coherent biblical worldview. That is, they lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional. Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity.

In fact, one reason why beliefs fluctuate is that most Americans’ hold few convictions about their faith. For instance, even among those who disagree with orthodox views, many do so while hedging their bets. Most Americans have one foot in the biblical camp, and one foot outside it. They say they are committed, but to what? They are spiritually active, but to what end? The spiritual profile of American Christianity is not unlike a lukewarm church that the Bible warns about."

When really defining who the REAL evangelicals are, Barna uses a 9 point test. His 9 point evangelicals are defined this way:

"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."
“Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include:

* saying their faith is very important in their life today;
* believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians;
* believing that Satan exists;
* believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works;
* believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;
* asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches;
* and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

"The most striking differences relate to the beliefs of each group. Compared to the 9-point evangelicals, those who say they are evangelicals are:

60% less likely to believe that Satan is real
53% less likely to believe that salvation is based on grace, not works
46% less likely to say they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others
42% less likely to list their faith in God as the top priority in their life
38% less likely to believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
27% less likely to contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings
23% less likely to say that their life has been greatly transformed by their faith

SO WHAT??????? So this is the world and culture our children and grandchildren are growing up in!! This is the group that calls themselves "Christians", who attend church with us, who do Sunday School with us, who fill our pulpits every Sunday. George Barna himself made this very disturbing comment, " The most discouraging study we ever conducted was one in which we attempted to identify churches in the U.S. that consistently and intelligently evaluate life transformation among the people to whom they minister. We found that very few churches – emphasis on very – measure anything beyond attendance, donations, square footage, number of programs and size of staff. None of that necessarily reflects life transformation. "

Some things to ponder:

Do you know what you believe about the deity of Christ; the virgin birth; the authenticity of Scripture; security of the believer; Satan; Heaven; Hell; faith vs works?

If your pastor through in some "junk" next Sunday, would you notice? Would you call him on it?

What are you doing to learn the TRUTH?

Do you have a Biblical worldview?

What are you doing on a CONSISTENT basis to teach your children/grandchildren TRUTH?

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