Tuesday, December 6, 2011
You Asked: Does an Unbelieving Child Disqualify an Elder? – The Gospel Coalition Blog
Does an Unbelieving Child Disqualify an Elder? – Justin Taylor
Monday, December 5, 2011
Go to church... at least most of the time. Make sure you agree with what you hear the preacher say, and affirm on the way home what was said especially when it has to do with your kids obeying, but let it stop there. Don’t read your Bible at home. The pastor will say everything you need to hear on Sundays. Don’t engage your children in questions they have concerning Jesus and God. Live like you want to live during the week so that your kids can see that duplicity is ok.
2. Pray only in front of people
The only times you need to pray are when your family is over, holiday meals, when someone is sick, and when you want something. Besides that, don’t bother. Your kids will see you pray when other people are watching, no need to do it with them in private.
3. Focus on your morals
Make sure you insist your kids be honest with you. Let them know it is the right thing for them to do, but then feel free to lie in your own life and disregard the need to tell them and others the truth. Get very angry with your children when they say words that are “naughty” and “bad,” but post, read, watch, and say whatever you want on TV, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure you focus on being a good person. Be ambiguous about what this means.
4. Give financially as long as it doesn’t impede your needs
Make a big deal out of giving at church. Stress to your children the value of tithing, while not giving sacrificially yourself. Allow them to see you spend a ton of money on what you want, while negating your command from Scripture to give sacrificially.
5. Make church community a priority... as long as there is nothing else you want to do
Hey, you are a church-going family, right? I mean, that’s what you tell your friends and family anyways. Make sure you attend on Sundays. As long as you didn’t stay up too late Saturday night. Or your family isn’t having a big barbeque. Or the big game isn’t on. Or this week you just don’t feel like it. Or... I mean, you’re a church-going family, so what’s the big deal? - Thomas Weaver, http://theresurgence.com/2011/03/26/5-ways-to-make-your-kids-hate-church
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America 's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
- Move slowly; choose wisely
- It is much easier to lay hands on people than lay off hands of people
- DNA matters
- 1% churches growing by conversion
- An introvert will influence 10,000 people in their life time (quoted form John Maxwell)
- Trying to disciple from the pulpit is like trying to feed babies by going to the nursery and spraying them with milk.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS POSITIVE.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS ENTHUSIASTIC.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS SUPPORTIVE.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS TRUSTING.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS FOCUSED.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS GOAL-ORIENTED.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS KNOWLEDGEABLE.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS OBSERVANT.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS RESPECTFUL.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS PATIENT.
- AN EFFECTIVE COACH IS CLEAR.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
-American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; Theory of Missions to the Heathen, 1812
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Here is a thoughtful article from the July 2, 2011 issue of World magazine. I found the magazine opened to this article today as I was cleaning off a cluttered area of my desk! I take it as providence; it encouraged me and thought it would encourage you also!
What a favor we can render a brother in Christ when we know this freedom firsthand, and exactly how to walk in it! The knitted brows in the pews are not generally over globalization or polar ice melt. Someone around you is quietly sinking in addiction or despair. If there is a way to fight the demons in his head (James 3:15; Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 5:9; 1 John 2:14), he needs equipping. He needs to bridge the gap between theology and reality.
Most of us are "good" on the positional gifts in Christ: imputed righteousness, forgiveness, adoption by His perfect Atonement. Is there any concrete help for the time between conversion and rapture? Our conversion was an important date but now it's over. "Let us . . . go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1). What is that "fullness" of which the Word says we have all received, the "grace upon grace" (John 1:16)?
Is it not the potential to be free in our minds? Potential, because not all Christians are free. As Schaeffer put it: "A man may lack in sanctification all that God means him to have in the present life because even though Christ has purchased it for him upon the cross he fails to believe God at this place and raise the empty hands of faith moment by moment."
My friend Leslie, extremely devout, said she wanted to hear from God, and refused to budge from her sundeck all day (except to go to the bathroom) until she got a message: "You don't believe me." Leslie later told me: "It was the Lord, so I had to receive it." The Spirit instructed her to start reading at Matthew chapter 1, and to stop when she got to a verse she didn't believe. She was distressed by how soon she had to stop.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and it is a progressive dismantling that begins now. In heaven we will not have the chance to put Satan to rout by faith; all that will be finished. Christ gave us the means of conquest in Ephesians 6 and elsewhere, so that we could take back our minds.
Once we believe, the sky is the limit. The confidence that we can get out of the darkest pit, and the vise grip of emotional bondage, is key. The means are there (prayer, the Word, the Spirit). All that's needed is a shift in our spirits to believe that overcomings are possible—that ours is not only the hope of heaven but the riches of His glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19).
I was in the attic sorting clothes, and suddenly letters beckoned to me from a box I was storing for someone. I got the idea that I would like to read those letters; no one would be the wiser. It didn't feel right, but an oily, unctuous voice said it was of no consequence, and that the Lord would forgive me because He knows I'm just a sinner. (The 19th-century poet Heinrich Heine said, "Dieu me pardonnera; c'est son métier": God will forgive me; it's His job.)
It seemed like a mild desire until I decided to put up slight resistance. Even with the weapons of prayer and stern reasoning with myself from the Word, it was all I could do to get out of the attic intact.
But you are never the same person after you say no to the devil. It is hard to describe, but you are stronger. And you have something else too—a testimony. Some person you know who has normally rolled over to every suggestion dropped into his brain from the Enemy will be encouraged. People want to be free. They just need to hear it can be done.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Our New And Exalted Identity
When most of us stop long enough to consider what establishes our identity, what really makes us who we are, many of us act as if the answer to this consideration is “our performance.” In Who Will Deliver Us, Paul Zahl expands on this:
If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth. Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines. The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the question, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes that my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals, thinly, a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist.
The gospel frees us from this obsessive pressure to perform, this slavish demand to “become.” The gospel liberatingly declares that in Christ “we already are.” While the world, the flesh, and the Devil constantly tempt us to locate our identity in something or someone smaller than Jesus, the gospel liberates us by revealing that our true identity is locked in Christ. Our connection in and with Christ is the truest definition of who we are.
If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: Who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not your sin. As my friend Justin Buzzard recently wrote, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.”
As I said in my previous post, now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others—because your identity is in Christ, not your place.
Now you can spend your life going to the back instead of getting to the front—because your identity is in Christ, not your position.
Now you can spend your life giving, not taking—because your identity is in Christ, not your possessions.
Paul speaks of our “having been buried with him [with Christ] in baptism,” in which we “were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Our old identity—the things that previously “made us”—has been put to death. Our new identity is “in Christ.” We’ve been raised with Christ to walk “in newness of life”—no longer needing to depend on the “old things” to make us who we are.
All this is our new identity—all because of Christ’s finished work declared to us in the gospel.
When we truly see and understand all these aspects of what we’ve become in Jesus Christ, what more could we possibly ever want or need when it comes to our self-identity? Here in Christ we have worth and purpose and security and significance that makes utterly laughable all the transient things of this world that we’re so frequently tempted to identify ourselves by.
Excerpted from my forthcoming book Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Christianity Is The End Of Religion
From the time God saved me at 21 years old, I’ve always been fascinated by the parables of Jesus. Three of the very first books I bought as a brand new Christian were Simon Kistemaker’s book The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told, James Boice’s book The Parables of Jesus, and Interpreting the Parables by Craig Blomberg. Not knowing anything about Reformed theology at that point in my life, these three books are what God used to develop my initial Reformed theological sensitivities. I highly recommend them all.
But a couple years ago when I was considering preaching through the parables (which I never ended up doing, by the way) one of my former professors suggested that I pick up Robert Farrar Capon’s thick book Kingdom, Grace, Judgement: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. He warned me that I would not agree with some of what Capon wrote but insisted that it would nevertheless benefit my study of the parables greatly. It sat on my shelf for a while until my friend Mark Miller asked me if I owned the book. I didn’t think I did and so I ordered it. After I ordered it and went to stock it on my bookshelf, I realized I already had it (You ever done that? That’s the downside of having a large library).
Well, I picked it up and started reading. And while there were some sections that left me scratching my head (just as my prof told me), I discovered some deeply insightful nuggets of gospel truth. My friends over at Mockingbird (if you don’t read that blog, you’re probably not a Christian) posted one of my favorite sections from Capon’s book a couple days ago. This is good stuff.
What role have I left for religion? None. And I have left none because the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ leaves none. Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.
Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever finally succeed (see the Epistle to the Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.
The End Of Control Is The Beginning Of Freedom
There’s nothing more difficult for us to get our minds around than the unconditional grace of God; it offends our deepest sensibilities. Conditionality is much safer than unconditionality because conditionality keeps us in control, it’s formulaic-do certain things and certain things are guaranteed to happen (this is why parents and preachers have such a hard time with grace–trust me, I know. I’m both a parent and a preacher). We understand conditions. Conditionality makes sense. Unconditionality on the other hand is incomprehensible to us. We are so conditioned against unconditionality because we are told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes acceptance; that achievement precedes approval.
Everything in our world demands two way love. Everything’s conditional: if you achieve only then will you receive meaning, security, respect, love and so on. But grace is otherworldly because it’s unconditional–it is one way love: “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable” (Paul Zahl).
Like Job’s friends, we naturally conclude that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff (we preach and parent this way). The idea that bad people get good stuff is thickly counter-intuitive. It seems terribly unfair. It offends our sense of justice (we so quickly forget that the Bible is not a record of good people earning God’s blessings, but a record of bad people receiving God’s blessings because Jesus earned them for us).
Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on grace- “don’t take it too far; keep it balanced.” The truth is, however, that a “yes grace but” posture is the kind of posture that perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It has no “but”: it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. As Doug Wilson put it recently, “Grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. In fact, unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.” Grace scares us to death because in every way it wrestles control out of our hands. However much we hate law, we are more afraid of grace.
I’ve posted these explosive words from Gerhard Forde before, but they’re worth posting again because he so aptly puts his finger on why we so naturally react the way we do when the gospel of God’s unconditional grace is considered:
The gospel of justification by faith is such a shocker, such an explosion, because it is an absolutely unconditional promise. It is not an “if-then” kind of statement, but a “because-therefore” pronouncement: because Jesus died and rose, your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in the sight of God! It bursts in upon our little world all shut up and barricaded behind our accustomed conditional thinking as some strange comet from goodness-knows-where, something we can’t really seem to wrap our minds around, the logic of which appears closed to us. How can it be entirely unconditional? Isn’t it terribly dangerous? How can anyone say flat out, “You are righteous for Jesus’ sake? Is there not some price to be paid, some-thing (however minuscule) to be done? After all, there can’t be such thing as a free lunch, can there?”
You see, we really are sealed up in the prison of our conditional thinking. It is terribly difficult for us to get out, and even if someone batters down the door and shatters the bars, chances are we will stay in the prison anyway! We seem always to want to hold out for something somehow, that little bit of something, and we do it with a passion and an anxiety that betrays its true source-the Old Adam that just does not want to lose control (Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life, pg. 24).
Contrary to what we conclude naturally, the gospel is not too good to be true. It is true! No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you’re a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.
As scary as it it may be, giving up on the facade of control is the beginning of freedom for you.
How the Gospel Does What Religion Cannot | The Resurgence
How the Gospel Does What Religion Cannot
For many years Christianity was wearisome to me.
That’s a confession you won’t often hear from the pastor of a growing, evangelical church, but for many years it was true of me.
The List Goes On
It seems that the list of what "good Christians" should be doing never ended. Evangelism. Missions. Adoption. Radical generosity. Bold prayers. Audacious faith. Every time I turned around someone else was telling me something I should be doing that I wasn’t. So I’d get busy with whatever new program made you a “good Christian.”
My service for God was fervent, but my passions for Him were cold.”
But things were not right in my heart. My marriage kept revealing how selfish and petty I was. Seeing others more successful than me in ministry made me jealous to the point that I delighted in the thought of them falling into sin and being disqualified from ministry. I still seemed captive to the lusts of my flesh. My service for God was fervent, but my passions for Him were cold. I certainly didn’t desire to know Him more.
While I would never admit it, I was starting to resent God. Instead of a merciful father, He was the merciless taskmaster, always standing over me yelling, “Not enough! I want more!” Recently I discovered something, or should I say, “rediscovered something,” that has changed everything. The gospel.
I don’t mean that I didn’t really know it before. I did. I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from a reputable, conservative seminary. I could have explained in great detail how Jesus paid for our sin, and I could preach for hours about the worthiness of Christ. But if my head knew the truth of those things, my heart didn’t feel them.
The gospel is able to do produce in our hearts what religion never could: a desire for God.”
The Puritan Jonathan Edwards likened his re-awakening to the Gospel to a man who had known, in his head, that honey was sweet, but for the first time had that sweetness burst alive in his mouth. Over the last few years, that is what has happened to me with the gospel.
“Rediscovering” the Gospel has given me a joy in God I never experienced in all my years of fervent religion. Now I sense, almost daily, a love for God replacing my love for myself. The jealously that once consumed my heart is being replaced by a desire to see others prosper. I feel selfishness giving way to tenderness and generosity. My cravings for the lusts of the flesh are being replaced by a craving for righteousness, and my self-centered dreams are being replaced by God-glorifying ambitions. A power is surging in me that is changing me and pushing me out into the world to leverage my life for the Kingdom of God.
Growth in Christ is the process of going deeper into the gospel, not in going beyond the gospel. As Martin Luther loved to say, “To progress is always to begin again.” The gospel is able to do produce in our hearts what religion never could: a desire for God. Those who crave righteousness will act righteously; those who love God will keep his commandments. This is the revolutionary power of the gospel: we do what we ought for God as we are captivated by the news of what he has done for us.
J.D. Greear is the pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. This article is adapted from his newly released book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Find out more info on the book here.
Here a good article on the necessity of the trinity by Kevin Deyoung. The link is here, The Doctrine of the Trinity: No Christianity Without It – Kevin DeYoung
The Doctrine of the Trinity: No Christianity Without It
Yet, when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, most Christians are poor in their understanding, poorer in their articulation, and poorest of all in seeing any way in which the doctrine matters in real life. One theologian said, tongue in cheek, “The trinity is a matter of five notions or properties, four relations, three persons, two processions, one substance or nature, and no understanding.” All the talk of essence and persons and co-this and co-that seem like theological gobbledy-gook reserved for philosophers and scholars-maybe for thinky bookish types, but certainly not for moms and mechanics and middle-class college students.
So in a few hundred words let me try to explain what the doctrine of the Trinity means, where it is found in the Bible, and why it matters.
First, what does the doctrine mean? The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. All of the creedal formulations and theological jargon and philosophical apologetics have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements and doing so without denying any of the other six. When the ancient creeds employ extra-biblical terminology and demand careful theological nuance they do so not to clear up what the Bible leaves cloudy, but to defend, define, and delimit essential biblical propositions. The Athanasian Creed puts it this way: “Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons, nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit, still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”
The two key words here are essence and persons. When you read “essence”, think “Godness.” All three Persons of the Trinity share the same “Godness.” One is not more God than another. None is more essentially divine than the rest. When you read “persons”, think “a particular individual distinct from the others.” Theologians use these terms because they are trying to find a way to express the relationship of three beings that are equally and uniquely God, but not three Gods. That’s why we get the tricky (but learnable) language of essence and persons. We want to be true to the biblical witness that there is an indivisibility and unity of God, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be rightly called God. The Persons are not three gods; rather, they dwell in communion with each other as they subsist in the divine nature without being compounded or confused.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand what we believe by stating what we don’t believe.
- Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects monarchianism which believes in only one person (mono) and maintains that the Son and the Spirit subsists in the divine essence as impersonal attributes not distinct and divine Persons.
- Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects modalism which believes that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different names for the same God acting in different roles or manifestations (like the well-intentioned but misguided “water, vapor, ice” analogy).
- Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects Arianism which denies the full deity of Christ.
- And finally, orthodox Trinitarianism rejects all forms of tri-theism, which teach that the three members of the Godhead are, to quote a leading Mormon apologist, “three distinct Beings, three separate Gods.”
The shape of Trinitarian orthodoxy is finally rounded off by texts that hint at the plurality of persons in the Godhead (Gen. 1:1-3, 26; Psalm 2:7; Dan. 7), texts like 1 Cor. 8:6 which place Jesus Christ as Lord right in the middle of Jewish Shema, and dozens of texts that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same breath, equating the three in rank, while assuming distinction of personhood (Matt. 28:19; Gal. 4:6; 1 Cor.12:4-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Cor. 2:21-22; 13:14; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:18, 20-22; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-20; 6:10-18).
The doctrine of the Trinity, as summarized in the seven statements earlier, is not a philosophical concoction by some over-zealous and over-intelligent early theologians, but one of the central planks of orthodoxy which can shown, explicitly or implicitly, from a multitude of biblical texts.
Third, why does any of this matter? There are lots of reasons, but borrowing from Robert Letham’s work, and in Trinitarian fashion, let me mention just three.
One, the Trinity matters for creation. God, unlike the gods in other ancient creation stories, did not need to go outside himself to create the universe. Instead, the Word and the Spirit were like his own two hands (to use Irenaeus’ famous phrase) in fashioning the cosmos. God created by speaking (the Word) as the Spirit hovered over the chaos. Creation, like regeneration, is a Trinitarian act, with God working by the agency of the Word spoken and the mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit.
Two, the Trinity matters for evangelism and cultural engagement. I’ve heard it said that the two main rivals to a Christian worldview at present are Islam and Postmodernism. Islam emphasizes unity—unity of language, culture, and expression—without allowing much variance for diversity. Postmodernism, on the other hand, emphasizes diversity—diversity of opinion, belief, and background—without attempting to see things in any kind of meta-unity. Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity. If God exists in three distinct Persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness.
Three, the Trinity matters for relationships. We worship a God who is in constant and eternal relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is a buzz word in American culture, but it is only in a Christian framework that communion and interpersonal community are seen as expressions of the eternal nature of God. Likewise, it is only with a Trinitarian God that love can be an eternal attribute of God. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that he might show love and know love, thereby making love a created thing (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
We had a great time at our first monthly discipleship training. Several of you commented that it was helpful and that you are excited to see the emphasis on discipleship. Lenore asked about the big picture of the program. My response is that Real Life Discipleship is not a new program but rather a refining of our process for discipleship, specifically doing a better job of creating relational environments (Life Groups) where life transformation can take place. Our goal is to focus on discipleship with new eyes. This is just a refining of our vision –
Win, Train, and Send.
Thanks for partnering in the mission Jesus gave us to intentionally see the lost saved, discipled and multiplying!
Many parents and church leaders wonder how to most effectively cultivate durable faith in the lives of young people. A five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman explores the opportunities and challenges of faith development among teens and young adults within a rapidly shifting culture. The findings of the research are included in a new book by Kinnaman titled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.
The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.
No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
A few of the defining characteristics of today's teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church's expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).
Turning Toward Connection
David Kinnaman, who is the coauthor of the book unChristian, explained that “the problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.
“Consequently, churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal.’ Instead, church leaders are most comfortable working with young, married adults, especially those with children. However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.”
The research points to two opposite, but equally dangerous responses by faith leaders and parents: either catering to or minimizing the concerns of the next generation. The study suggests some leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and twentysomethings because they feel that the disconnection will end when young adults are older and have their own children. Yet, this response misses the dramatic technological, social and spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 25 years and ignores the significant present-day challenges these young adults are facing.
Other churches seem to be taking the opposite corrective action by using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults. However, putting the focus squarely on youth and young adults causes the church to exclude older believers and “builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” Kinnaman said.
Between these extremes, the just-released book You Lost Me points to ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Kinnaman observed that many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”
|You Lost Me
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This Barna Update is based on research conducted for the Faith That Lasts Project, which took place between 2007 and 2011. The research included a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group.
In addition to extensive quantitative interviewing with adults and faith leaders nationwide, the main research examination for the study was conducted with 18- to 29-year-olds who had been active in a Christian church at some point in their teen years. The quantitative study among 18- to 29-year-olds was conducted online with 1,296 current and former churchgoers. The Faith That Lasts research also included parallel testing on key measures using telephone surveys, including interviews conducted among respondents using cell phones, to help ensure the representativeness of the online sample. The sampling error associated with 1,296 interviews is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
The online study relied upon a research panel called KnowledgePanel®, created by Knowledge Networks. It is a probability-based online non-volunteer access panel. Panel members are recruited using a statistically valid sampling method with a published sample frame of residential addresses that covers approximately 97% of U.S. households. Sampled non-Internet households, when recruited, are provided a netbook computer and free Internet service so they may also participate as online panel members. KnowledgePanel consists of about 50,000 adult members (ages 18 and older) and includes persons living in cell phone only households.
About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. It conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries.
Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
© Barna Group, 2011.