Friday, January 14, 2011

Dangerous Trends for American Christianity

A review of the past year's research conducted by the Barna Group suggest six alarming trends in American Christianity.
Five thousand non-proprietary interviews were conducted over the past 11 months, and George Barna indicated that the following patterns were evident in the survey findings.

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans--especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other examples include the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's presence or power, but not a living entity. As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
Despite technological advances that make communications instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago. Examples of this tendency include the fact that less than one-third of born again Christians planned to invite anyone to join them at a church event during the Easter season; teenagers are less inclined to discuss Christianity with their friends than was true in the past; most of the people who become Christians these days do so in response to a personal crisis or the fear of death (particularly among older Americans).
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
When asked what matters most, teenagers prioritize education, career development, friendships, and travel. Faith is significant to them, but it takes a back seat to life accomplishments and is not necessarily perceived to affect their ability to achieve their dreams. Among adults the areas of growing importance are lifestyle comfort, success, and personal achievements. Because we continue to separate our spirituality from other dimensions of life through compartmentalization, a relatively superficial approach to faith has become a central means of optimizing our life experience.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community service activities than has been true in the recent past. While we remain more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing, the expanded focus on justice and service has struck a chord with many. However, despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants’ engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power.
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
Our biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence has caused Americans to avoid making discerning choices for fear of being labeled judgmental. The result is a Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. This increased leniency is made possible by the very limited accountability that occurs within the body of Christ. There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about.
6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
Christianity has arguably added more value to American culture than any other religion, philosophy, ideology or community. Yet, contemporary Americans are hard pressed to identify any specific value added. Partly due to the nature of today’s media, they have no problem identifying the faults of the churches and Christian people.

Notice that the first trend listed leads to the following five. When Biblical/Theological illiteracy infests the church, the foundation for all other areas of moral living crumbles. Absolutes vanish. Awareness of God and a coming judgment is lost. Society caves in on itself. Live loses all value.
But the trends can be changed. Paul and his companions were accused of turning the world upside down. If a few Spirit-filled men can impact a culture as they did in the first century, imagine what an arm of Spirit-filled believers can do today.
We have the means.
We have the technology.
Do we have the Spirit?
Jimmy Root Jr
Author: DISTANT THUNDER and the AWARD WINNING MAGOG RISING NOTE to Lightning Chronicle Enthusiasts:
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