When I started this part…’Condition of the Christian Church’…a few weeks ago, I stated that it will be up to the Christian churches to start the next revival to return this nation to God and its foundation principles and I asked if the church was up to the task? As we all know the church is not just some building but it’s the people who meet i! n this building and then carry their convictions into their community and society. If the people are not up to the task then it would seem only logical that the church isn’t either. This week we will take a look at one way to measure the health of the ‘church’…religious belief.
In the past ten years there has been a lot of change in people’s religious beliefs. Unlike the changes in people’s religious behavior…as was addressed last week…some of the belief shifts have moved more people toward a more Biblical understanding of certain matters of faith. While the proportion of adults who are firmly convinced that Jesus lived a sinless life has remained steady in the past decade, the proportion that is convinced that He did not live a sinless life has declined slightly…from 27% to 19%. [Barna Group, “OmniPoll 1-14” and “OmniPoll 1-04”]. In a like manner, the percentage of adults who are strongly persuaded that Satan is real has remained virtually unchanged since 2004, but the percentage that strongly believes Satan is just a symbol of evil but not a living entity has actually fallen substantially…from 42% to 29%. [Ibid]. Likewise, there has been no change in the number of people who firmly reject the idea that you can earn your way into Heaven…28%… while the percentage that strongly agrees that such a means to eternal salvation exists has dropped from one-third to one-quarter of the public. [Ibid]. It might be worth noting that about one-third of the population falls somewhere between these positions on each of these measures. That is to say, they may lean toward one answer or the other but remain unconvinced. The absence of strong or firm convictions on such seminal spiritual matters usually means that they give little thought and attach limited significance to whatever the ‘correct’ an! swer might be on such questions.
Unfortunately, not every theological perspective has experienced such a positive stature. There has been a huge drop in the percentage of people who strongly affirm that their religious faith is very important in their life today, declining from almost three-quarters of adults in 2004 to just half today. [Ibid]. Fewer people now have an orthodox, Biblical perception of the nature of God…omnipotent, omniscient, Creator of the universe, engaged with the world…than was true ten years ago…a seven-point reduction, to about six out of ten Americans. [Ibid]. The Bible remains a bit of a mystery to millions of Americans. Two-thirds of adults believe that the Bible is the actual or inspired Word of God, a drop from three-quarters less than a decade ago. [Ibid]. There has been a concurrent eight-point rise in the percentage of adults who now argue that the Bible is not holy literature at all but rather a book of ‘good teachings’ composed by men based on their own ideas and experiences. [Ibid].
Is it any wonder then that there is such confusion in today’s churches? Could it be that the view of ‘do evangelism, not politics’ is a wrong view for churches to take? Doesn’t the whole Gospel include the transformation of society? Yes, forgiveness of sins is the central message of the Gospel but this is not the only message of the Gospel. Jesus is looking for transformed lives and through them a transformed world. The good news of the Gospel will result in changed lives, but Jesus wants that result in changed families as well. When the Gospel changes lives it should result in changed neigh! borhoods; changed schools; changed businesses; and changed societies. Shouldn’t the Gospel also result in changed governments as well? Should churches teach their congregations what the Bible says about God’s will for families; will for business; will for educating our children? One would certainly think so. Shouldn’t then the churches also teach about God’s will for human government? Some Christians are actually called upon to implement that teaching in actually influencing government for good. It would then call to question the ‘do evangelism, not politics’ view point as a mistaken understanding of what is important to God, as if only spiritual…non-material, other-worldly…things matter to Him and not the actual circumstances of people’s physical life in this world. For the church to take a position of…just do evangelism and not get involved in politics…is to ask the question: What parts of the Bible has it been decided not to preach because only the Gospel is going to be preached? Is Romans 13:1-7 going to be deleted? Or 1 Peter 2:13-14? Or Genesis 9:5-6? Or which narratives of the Old Testament kings and their good and evil deeds? What about Daniel’s influence on the government of Babylon? Then there are Isiah’s prophecies to the other nations in Isaiah 13-23? Same with Amos 1-2? Then there’s Esther’s influence on the king that saved her people from mass execution? What parts of the Bible must be left out by the idea that only the Gospel will be preached in the churches? Is it any wonder that today’s society is struggling to find relevance in the messages delivered by many churches who are trying to segregate themselves from the policies and actions that are impacting members of the congregations/citizens daily? Could this be part of the reason why people are starting to question their ‘religious beliefs’?
Next week we will continue to take a look at why the Church is losing its influence in today’s culture. Recovery of this influence is critical in restoring this nation. First the church must recover the influence it once had with its membership.
– Bob Munsey