You may have read this Barna study, but I think it is worth looking at again as we try to reverse the tide of the declining effectiveness of our churches on the culture.
These six shifts should wake us up and cause us to think, plan, and lead in a different way. The religious landscape in the U.S. is changing into something quite different from the past. I am going to list all these in this blog and discuss the first one. We will come back and discuss the other five later.
Barna analyzed insights drawn from more than 5,000 non-proprietary interviews conducted over a 11 month period last Fall. The research indicates the following evident patterns.
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. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.
I am sure this does not take you by surprise. Most homes have many copies of the Bible but it is the most un-read book for the number of copies in the world. How do we address this? Here are a few ideas.
• Emphasize to your members to bring their Bibles to church. How many of your members faithfully bring their Bibles? We may be partly responsible for this as we have enabled people by projecting Scripture with PowerPoint or in the sermon notes, but we still must get people opening their own copy of the Word of God.
• When you teach or preach don’t assume people know where the text is so help them find it by saying… look in the middle of your Bible or way over in the New Testament, etc.
• Story telling is a great way to help people get in touch with Scripture and memorize Scripture.
• Teach an Old Testament and New Testament survey course. There is great material for this like “Step by Step through the New Testament.”
• Emphasize Sunday School (small groups) and the benefits of regular group Bible study.
• Lead people to systematically read through the entire Bible. When I was a pastor I led my church to do this every three years or so to make sure everyone had read thru the Bible.
• Go back to the basics. Why not preach a series or offer a study of “The Baptist Faith and Message.”
• Don’t assume your folks know the basics. Keep teaching people the basics of the faith. They should know what they believe and why they believe.
Here are the other five shifts. Would love to hear your ideas.
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.
6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
Keep the Son in your Eyes,