The challenge for every generation of Christian evangelicals is to communicate the gospel message in a way that is relevant to their culture and community. In a way, we are all missionaries. Our message never changes, but our methods must constantly evolve if we are to connect in a relevant way with our neighbors and cities, friends and communities.
The following is the conclusion of a survey undertaken by the Barna Research group. The entire article is online, and available from the link in the footnote. Here is Barna’s conclusion.
"The data provide a distinct image of each faith group," Barna commented. "Evangelicals are intensely driven by their faith: their life is substantially influenced by their beliefs and their lifestyle choices and aspirations reflect the centrality of their spirituality.
Non-evangelical born again adults consider faith to be important but it is not the defining aspect of their existence; it is influential but not the determining factor. Notional Christians treat faith as just one of many dimensions of their life that serves a purpose, but it is not a driving force at all. Skeptics have replaced faith with a passion for healthy longevity and personal pleasure gained through world travel, sexual experiences, and obtaining knowledge. They are substantially less focused on relationships and legacy than are other groups. They tend to be less concerned about finding or pursuing a purpose in life because a majority of them believe life has no purpose beyond comfort and pleasure."
How long has it been since you objectively evaluated the composition of your mission field. Who is in your community? Who comes through the doors of your church? Who doesn’t?
"It is intriguing to study the ebb and flow of spirituality in a person’s life," he noted. "Those who fall into the evangelical stream have determined that life is all about the pursuit of God and the development of a life-altering faith. Atheists and agnostics, who slightly outnumber evangelicals, have arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion. And then there are the 80% or so who are at every other conceivable point along the continuum in between those two extremes.
Barna adds that further research shows the evangelical church losing influence in the world. Instead, teens are on their way to constructing their own moral codes, as are many other societal segments. In the absence of relevant, influential moral and spiritual leadership from the Church who carries this responsibility, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17.6)
Reading deeply into the conclusion above, Barna’s research highlights the solution for those willing to respond. Eighty percent of our population falls on a continuous line stretching between atheist and evangelical, and most have been exposed to a Christian influence, evidenced by their use of that exposure to create their own spiritual manifesto. Evangelicals’ task, it would seem, is not preaching the message anew, but communicating the message in a relevant way that encourages and equips the nominally committed to steps along that continuum toward the “development of a life-altering faith.”
What does that look like? What would it look like in your church?
Your thoughts and comments on this article are welcome.
Read more articles by Tim Burns or search for articles on the same topic or others.
I thought the article was well thought-out and I agree with the point of view. I know in my church, teen pregnancies are up, and grandparents are raising their kids' babies in the name of enforcing the pro-life agenda. Life is important, yes, on all levels. We are letting our young people down if we do not send them clear, biblical messages about living a life committed to Christ while seeing the way that decisions bring with them negative consequences when we are outside God's wishes for us. Nice job! Thank you for critiquing two of my articles. One was "Let's be Christians First" where I inadvertently created a new verse: James 10:27. You'll see that article in the regular articles corrected when I caught it too. It was more a case of cross-referencing rather than trusting my memory. The correct verse is Matthew 22:36.