Are we keeping score?
Outsiders are skeptical about our desire to put another notch in our belts and “get someone saved for Jesus!” Our methods for implementing the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is tempered by the hypocrisy was discussed in the previous chapter.
Only one-quarter of young outsiders firmly perceive that Christianity offers them “hope for the future” (23 percent), and only one out of every seven strongly believes Christianity is “genuine and real” (15 percent). Despite the fact that most young outsiders say that Christianity has good values and principles (79 percent), a majority say that the Christian faith teaches pretty much the same basic ideas as other religions (81 percent). 1
These statistics help shape the basis for the chapter and should compel us to action. How is it that only 23 percent of the next generation find hope in Christ? What are we doing, or rather, not doing to lose 77 percent of the population when most appreciate the “good values and principles” taught in the Bible?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer would probably answer that we have cheapened the Gospel, created the theology of “cheap grace.” Brennan Manning would agree and I think many pastors of the modern Christian church would join the fray.
My goal each day has little to do with getting a notch in my belt, but outsiders don’t have that perception–that’s what I want to learn from this chapter.
- Sharing faith is best achieved through interpersonal relationships–not through mass revivals. Less than one-half of one percent of the born-again Busters said they came to faith as a result of radio, television or tracts being passed out. That’s more than zero, but just barely.
- Mass evangelism creates more negative responsive–three to ten times the negative response.
- The Great Commission doesn’t give us the license to offend people. The apostle Paul taught us that the Gospel will be offensive, but he always pointed to Christ and encouraged us to be kind and considerate. The people Jesus most often offended were the religious, the self-righteous Jewish leadership.
- Most don’t aren’t logical thinkers and are not interested in having an intellectual discussion based on modern apologetics. While that’s probably an accurate conclusion from the data presented, I don’t believe this is a license to avoid studying Scripture and building our own intellectual arguments. William Lane Craig leads a host of modern apologists that have gone to great lengths to developing convincing, scientific, arguments that support a wide array of theses presented by the Bible. It’s good to wrestle with these!
- Most people come to faith before adolescence. What we do in church matters. We must have serious discipleship plans if we are to see a generation of believers rise up and move this country back toward Christ.
- Reaching fiercely independent adults is a difficult task–Jesus told us it the world would problems (John 16:33). This should be no surprise, but as mentioned early, is also not an excuse for apathy.
Most people in our country, some 82 percent, have heard the message of the Gospel, been to church and have heard about Christianity. But as teenagers enter the adult world, the vast majority of them fall away from the church.
The vast majority of Americans, regardless of age, assert they have already made a significant decision to follow Christ! 2
But what does that really mean? Kinnaman digs deeper to find that only 3 percent actually have a Biblical worldview based on these factors2:
- Believes Jesus Christ lived a sinless life
- God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and he still rules today
- Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned
- Satan is real
- Christians have a responsibility to share their faith
- The Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches
- Unchanging moral truth exists
- Such moral truth is defined by the Bible
These statistics should drive us to examine how we raise disciples. If I sound redundant, I’m ok with that! Most people in this country have “heard the gospel.” The question is, what have they heard? Or perhaps more importantly, what have they experienced? What are we doing to perpetuate cheap grace? How can we redirect this?
Our research confirmed that many of these young people actually went through a time when they were searching for faith. They were probing the Christian faith, trying it on for size, but they couldn’t get past some of the mental, emotional, or spiritual barriers— often heightened by their experience of an unChristian faith— so they gave up. 3
Having Clear Outcomes in Mind
Leaders in the Christian faith will no doubt agree that we should all be seeking transformation, to become like Christ in all things. Defining that is a bit difficult to agree on. Here are some points to consider:
- Thinking. Romans 12:2
- Loving. Mark 12:30, John 11:35-36, 13:34; 1 John 4:16.
- Listening. John 15:1-2, 1 Corinthians 3:18
Clearly we need to redefine our metrics, how we measure success. If not by numbers, how do we do this? How do we measure depth and quality of spiritual maturity? I think the main emphasis is not the numbers but the reality of moving deeper in our faith and letting the numbers be evidence, not the goal.
Lord help us to be more Christ-like and lean on you for understanding.
1 Kinnaman, David; Lyons, Gabe (2007-10-01). unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters (p. 69). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2 ibid, p.75.
3 ibid, p.78.Latest post: Blog Continues at daverphillips.com