Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” Spoken by Jesus Christ.
One of leading Christian researchers that watches trends taking place in the society and the church is giving a warning that should be a concern to all of us. George Barna is notifying us of a growing crisis, if churches fail to address the same trend going on in the world that is now present inside the church we are going to be shipwrecked. “When a majority of Christian adults...as well as three out of four born again teens proudly cast their vote for moral relativism, the Church is in trouble,” he said.
In a survey done January 2000, prior to the terrorist activity people were asked if they believed “there are moral truths that are absolute, meaning that those moral truths or principles do not change according to the circumstances” or that “moral truth always depends upon the situation, meaning that a person's moral and ethical decisions depend upon the circumstances.” At the start of 2000, almost four out of ten adults (38%) said that there are absolute moral truths that do not change according to the circumstances. Today the result was that just two out of ten adults (22%) claimed to believe in the existence of absolute moral truth.
The Barna report done by his Barna Research Group revealed that among all adults, only 22 percent believed in moral absolutes, while 64 percent thought truth was always relative to the person concerned and their situation. Among those interviewed that were identified as being born again, just 32 percent believed in moral absolutes. Among Hispanic adults Fifteen percent and the African American adults 10 percent said that moral truth was absolute. Among the teens the statistics were just as disheartening, eighty-three percent of all teens thought moral truth depended on the circumstances, with just 6 percent believing in absolute truth.
He nails the reason to “The virtual disappearance of this cornerstone of the Christian faith - that is, God has communicated a series of moral principles in the Bible that are meant to be the basis of our thoughts and actions, regardless of our preferences, feeling or situations - is probably the best indicator of the waning strength of the Christian church in America today.” Think of it, the church does not have itself anchored to the Word and so there is barely a noticeable difference from the church at large and secular society.
So much for the Church taking over the country making us a Christian nation, much less other countries. If there is revival going on it is well hidden as the Barna Research Group reported, “There does not seem to be revival taking place in America. Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions.” (“Annual study reveals America is spiritually stagnant,” Barna Research Group) This proves what some people have been saying all along, that it is groups of people going from one church to another as they follow the newest spirit trend. This proves that many of the same people are committing their lives over and over again not understanding the gospel.
Certainly Americas present Christianity has been less than edifying to other nations; exporting our so-called faith and prosperity evangelism. But this shift in how we do church has taken its toll inside our own walls, with our openness and focus on experiential services, ie. miracle and healing, deliverance etc. Those who reacted to a dry orthodoxy, replaced it mostly with emotionalism, a charismatic show, having people be caught up with signs and wonders program. Not giving the people practical spiritual help by learning the Word of God. And it has affected us; now the people do not know what theology or faith actually is, they do not know the core doctrines of Christianity and it’s showing by the surveys, as well as church growth (discussed at the end of the article). Satan has succeeded in replacing or watering down the ancient foundational doctrines found in God's Word that have kept the church practicing the truth. This is one of the reasons why the churches of today, do not know how to uphold the truth in the Bible; it has been replaced with a lot of entertainment with little or no substance.
We can thank the TV for propagating temporary teachings that's as effective as a dentists temporary filling.The books are mostly the same content, the meetings and the speakers that have influenced the TV pulpits are now what so many pastors teach. Biblical history does seem to have a small irony, as we repeat it for not knowing it. The prophet Jeremiah said “And they have turned to Me the back, and not the face; though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction” (Jer. 32:33). What was said to Israel can certainly be said to the church. As went Israel, so goes the church.
“Todays teens struggle to find lasting truth, McDowell says” (article printed in Hawaii Pacific Baptist - December)
According to international Christian apologist Josh McDowell who works with teens “Seventy-five percent of all kids coming to Christ today are not coming to Jesus because He's the way, the truth and the life,” said Josh -McDowell. "They are coning to Christ because He is the best thing that's come along so far, that they've filtered through their experience. And as soon as something better to them comes along, they're gone.”
McDowell said the greatest challenge facing the evangelical church in the 21st century is communicating the truth of the gospel in" a culture where all truth claims are perceived as equal.
Citing a 1999 survey showing that 65 percent of evangelical teenagers believe there is no way to determine which religion is true, McDowell said the prevailing cultural mindset defines truth according to “personal, perspective” and “personal experience.” One of the examples given “many evangelical teenagers today say the Bible is true and historically-accurate, because they believe it. But that belief system is faulty McDowell said, said because it is based on one's personal opinion, not the concept, that there is an objective standard of truth outside one’s self.”
The 1999 survey showed 52 percent of “evangelical church kids say the only intellectual way to live is to make the best decisions you can based on your feelings at the moment.”The Barna reported the same thing “People are most likely to make their moral and ethical decisions on the basis of whatever feels right or comfortable in a situation.”(2002 Feb.)
Something is drastically wrong with the church who cannot direct and teach the kids Here is where it begins-In a former issue of Pulpit Helps they gave the results of a survey where 7,441 Protestant pastors were polled. Of the 7,441 Protestant pastors, 51 percent of the Methodists, 35 percent of the Presbyterians, 30 percent of the Episcopalians, and 33 percent of the American Baptists did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is astounding. How can this be, these are pastors of churches? It’s a simple answer, they do not believe the Bible nor are they allowing it to govern their lives. The Bible is then reduced to a book with good advice, a self-improvement book, and to some, a book for success in the world.
Among 7,441 Protestant pastors. Asked if they believed that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God: 87% of Methodists said NO. 95% of Episcopalians said NO. 82% of Presbyterians said NO. 67% of American Baptists said N0. (Pulpit Helps, December 1987) Do you think this has improved since then?
Even from the pulpit with this disbelief in the core doctrines they can still pastor churches. As the leadership goes so goes the church. This teaching goes down from the liberals in pulpits to the laymen in the congregation. The Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the virgin birth, and the inspiration of the Bible are all under attack today and not always from the outside but the inside. We the church had better know how to give solid answers. As the saying goes, you are either a missionary or a mission field. If you don’t believe in the objective absolute truth of the Bible then they are not really born again and following Christ. You certainly should not be teaching; get out from the pulpit and find something else to do; you’ll spare the people and yourself from judgment.
When you hear so-called scholars say the Old Testament is a mixture of myths, legendary stories, and some history that was developed over a long period of time, we know we are listening to liberals. When some scholar tells us not to read the Bible as a historical document, denying a real Garden of Eden with two humans both male and female who started mankind, and call it an allegory, that’s liberalism. When scholars deny a worldwide flood in Noah’s day call it a myth, that’s liberalism. When they teach the book of Job is ancient folklore, that’s liberalism. When they say the book of Isaiah is written by two or three men, that Daniel was written after the fact, that’s liberalism. When you hear Jonah is a legend, no whale (or great fish) can swallow a human and spit them up alive after 3 days, that’s liberalism. When you hear that the Gospels were constructed after the deaths of the Apostles, Christianity we have today is really an invention of Paul, that’s liberalism.
Where is this all headed? First the Bible becomes devalued by being discredited; if the story of Adam and Eve is not true then both Moses and Jesus are liars. Then the gospel itself will be attacked; they will say we do not have sin and the gospel is not the only way to God because the story of the Garden and mans sin is not true. Then the person of Jesus will be attacked. Why believe he is the unique Son of God if he endorsed Genesis and it is not true. The world already accepts Jesus as a good man and teacher but deny His exclusive claim to be God, our only Savior. If His claims of himself are not true, then He was self-deceived and a deliberate liar, and we could not in all honesty call him a good man! Was Jesus wrong when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”? (Jn.14:6) Was this hate speech? When we tell people of this truth and it offends their religion or non- religion, they call this hate, not love. But what if he was right and the millions of people who testify He is right because of their changed lives and fellowship with God. Then it would really be hatred not tell people the truth.
It will not be long before the church no longer believes Jesus is deity, as we remove ourselves from the core doctrines. The gospel is then affected because if he is not deity he is no longer the only begotten Son of God. Then the doctrine of mankind being sinful will go and you can see where there is all leading to-they will say the Bible is NOT the Word of God.
If you don’t think this can happen consider this report from George Gallup. In 1963, 2 out of 3 people believed that the Bible was the actual word of God. Associated with this belief is the concept that the writings in the Bible are inerrant, and infallible. By 1999, the numbers had reversed. 2 out of 3 now regard the Bible as composed of “divinely inspired” texts or ancient fables, legends and human-recorded moral codes (George Gallup and D. Lindsay. “Surveying the American Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs,” Morehouse Publishing, 1999). Also belief in the inerrancy of the Bible dropped from 58% to 41% during this time period.
The Bible is then read as a book with good advice, having a higher moral and ethical standard that can be used to improve ones quality of life
The number of American adults who identify themselves with Christianity that can be classified as Christian dropped from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001. (According to ARIS Study American Religious Identification Survey was conducted in February to April 2001.)
Diana Eck a professor of comparative religion at Harvard University reports 76.5% (159 million) of Americans identify themselves as (http://www.religioustolerance.org/christ.htm) Christian. This is a major slide from 86.2% in 1990. Identification with Christianity has suffered a loss of 9.7 percentage points in 11 years -- about 0.9 percentage points per year. If this trend continues, then by about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber the Christians in the U.S. (Diana Eck, “A New Religious America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation,” 2001).
So if Christianity is in decline then something must be taking its place. Some see America as becoming more diversified, others see it turning to paganism, and there is good reason for both of these. The fastest growing religion percentage wise is Wicca. Going from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001. Doubling about every 30 months. (American Religious Identification Survey, done by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York). No doubt books like Harry Potter have given them good publicity to have over 1,500 percent jump.
Researchers at Hartford Seminary report the number of Muslim places of worship grew by 42 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with the 12 percent average increase for evangelical churches. Megachurches saw the most increases - 83 percent of them recording at least a 10 percent jump in attendance - mosques were next, with 60 percent reporting similar rises. Only 39 percent of evangelical congregations saw the same increases. (Hartford's Faith Communities Today study of American congregations) consider that there have been more Mosques that churches built in England over the last 8 years. America is next.
Consider that fact that we can’t even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools, but they are now teaching Islam to students and how to pray to Allah in California schools. Byron, California Students are required to attend an intensive three week course on Islam; a course in which students are mandated to learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures of the faith, wear a robe, adopt a Muslim name and stage their own Jihad.
I for one am not going to let any survey dictate to me the direction of where we are headed as if there is no hope, but it does giving us a warning sign where we are now. We can salvage this while we still have time, we may be in a nosedive but we have not hit the ground yet. What can we do? Turn off the TV Christian programming, stop wasting our time on so much nonsense and get involved; start teaching our youngsters how to read the Bible, how to study it and mine the treasure that’s inside its pages. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). Lets start obeying the great commission and disciple a friend or family in God’s word.
The kids need to see our example and apply it to their own lives; we must make them spiritually minded and keep them away from the drivel that is mostly on Christian TV and engage them personally with the Scripture and practicing their faith. This is serious; those who do not believe in the absolute truth of the Bible will eventually influence our kids if we do not redeem the time we have. We need to be equipped with tools to know what they are talking about and how to communicate with others. If we do not do this we will lose the next generation and wake up one day much to our dismay as a church who has completely departed from the faith, and is replaced by another religion or no religion at all.
As the Scripture admonishes us to “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6). Lets equip ourselves so we can do the work of evangelism and discipleship so we can present Christianity as a reasonable faith to all.