Something is happening across the cultural landscape in our country and these six changes should wake us up. Barna analyzed insights drawn from more than 5,000 non-proprietary interviews conducted over 11 months.
1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
Now let’s look at the last one.
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.
In a period of history where image is reality, and life-changing decisions are made on the basis of such images, the Christian Church is in desperate need of a more positive and accessible image.
The most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do–or do not–implement their faith in public and private. American culture is driven by the snap judgments and decisions that people make amidst busy schedules and incomplete information. With little time or energy available for research and reflection, it is people’s observations of the integration of a believer’s faith into how he/she responds to life’s opportunities and challenges that most substantially shape people’s impressions of and interest in Christianity.
Christian leaders would do well to revisit their criteria for “success” and the measures used to assess it. In a society in which choice is king, there are no absolutes, every individual is a free agent, we are taught to be self-reliant and independent, and Christianity is no longer the automatic, default faith of young adults, new ways of relating to Americans and exposing the heart and soul of the Christian faith are required.
One does not have to add too much of a “spend cycle” to Barna’s insightful but stinging words. He has described what some writers’ call, “cultural Christianity,” where Christians do not implement their faith in the private sector very favorably, Barna’s word “invisible.”
When I was a youth pastor I taught my youth group the song, “If you don’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.” We talk a good talk on Sundays and when we are with other Believers in the huddle (church) but the world sees our walk (on the field) when we are not in those comfortable settings.
To be honest, they see whether we are the real deal or just all talk. Most people know what the church stands against but they do not know what the church stands for. The reason for this is because they have been around “us.”
To reverse this mega shift churches must be more intentional at “disciple making.” Our members must know what they believe and why they believe it. They must be equipped to share the Gospel in the marketplace and meet needs in the Spirit of Christ for His glory.
Make no mistake we are in a spiritual battle that is being played out as I write and you read this blog.
We must get back to the basics and make certain that our people have a Christian world view based on the authority of Scripture and that they understand that they are to be ready to share as 1 Peter 3:15 says,
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” NIV
We can not be invisible any longer!
Keep the Son in Your Eyes,