The coming evangelical collapse?

10 03 2009

Monday was a big news day re the status of the church in North America – here’s what went down:

arisreport20081) The ARIS survey results title American Religious Identification Survey 2008 was widely reported. The full report is available here.

barnagroup

2) The Barna Group released results of a recent survey titled Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years – it was not widely reported. A printable version of the findings is here – the key nugget: “less than one-half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation – i.e., those aged 18 to 23 – have a biblical worldview, compared to about one out of every nine older adults.”

csm3) But to top it all off the Christian Science Monitor published a very provocative article titled The Coming Evangelical Collapse (print edition to be available later in the week). If you are already uncomfortable from reading other posts on this blog you may want to skip this one (as if the title wasn’t warning enough). But for those who want to read the author’s thoughts in greater detail check out the unabridged version – a three part series posted the end of January 2009 here, here and here (or a printable version of all 3 available here).

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Education for a new society

14 01 2009

“The church that educates for a new society will live out in its structures what it proclaims.  The very structures themselves educate.  When our acts mirror our words, they give to our words a transforming power.”

-Elizabeth O’Connor





The end of Christendom – a good thing

12 01 2009

barnagroup

 

 

 

George Barna posted today the results of his latest research regarding the state of Christianity in America.  He titled his findings “Christianity Is No Longer Americans’ Default Faith” – summarizing his findings that “half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.”  Here are some of the insights Barna draws from the research:

  • “The Christian faith is less of a life perspective that challenges the supremacy of individualism as it is a faith being defined through individualism.
  • … Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs… Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.
  • In the past, when most people determined their theological and moral points of view, the alternatives from which they chose were exclusively of Christian options… Today, Americans are more likely to pit a variety of non-Christian options against various Christian-based views. This has resulted in an abundance of unique worldviews based on personal combinations of theology drawn from a smattering of world religions…
  • Faith, of whatever variety, is increasingly viral rather than pedagogical. With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching.”

Barna’s survey results are no surprise but serve to underline our present reality that we need to be living in this culture as missionaries – not pharisees. 

theendofchristendom

Christendom has been waining in the west for several decades but the church has been slow to see it – and even slower to process the implications.  One exception to that is Malcolm Muggeridge who gave a series of popular lectures on the subject at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) in 1978 (published in 1980 in a book titled The End of Christendom).   Muggeridge’s perspective was that Christendom is not compatible with Christianity and, as such, the end of Christendom will allow for the church to triumph.  He saw the twentieth century as a parallel to what St. Augustine encountered when faced with the collapse of Rome: the inevitable transience of historical civilizations in contrast to which the eternity that comes to light through Christianity shines out all the more clearly, as he envisions anew Augustine’s distinction between the ephemeral City of Man and the everlasting City of God.





Are we having a rummage sale?

2 01 2009

greatemergenceI’m so over the word “change” – I mean give it a rest – the Obama campaign has flat worn the word out.  Before tucking the word away, however, let me offer a couple observations: 1) Systemic cultural change was well in progress before Obama’s campaign – he simply picked a good wave to surf on; and 2) The level of change the Obama campaign talked about pales in comparison to what is actually going on in American cuture and the church (specifically the church in North America).

No one describes the current transformation of the church more comprehensively than Phyllis Tickle.  Her new book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, provides a view from 50,000 feet of what we are experiencing in this time of liminality.  Her assessment is bold but based upon an historical analysis and whether her conclusions are correct will only be known years from now.  But if she is right we are priviledged to be living (participating?) in a very transformative period for the church.

So what is the book about – what is the “rummage sale” thing?   Check out this short video introduction:





Apologetics in post-modernity

1 01 2009

One of the statements made by Andy Stanley at the Catalyst Conference this fall keeps ringing in my head: “If you are over 45 years old, you aren’t going to have any good ideas. It’s your job to recognize the good ideas.” I take a statement like this as a challenge not another nail in the coffin for those of us in this age group. The challenge is to not submit to the comfort of just “doing church” but to press forward – learn new things and engage in new ways.

Well, Andy Stanley’s statement rang again today when I read a series of questions that John H. Armstrong used in a graudate class in apologetics he taught last month at Wheaton College. I think these are the type of questions that can really help us move toward engagement – they provide a good map about what we need to be learning and applying. John Armstrong credits these questions to Newbigin’s book Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship:

1. What are the questions that the postmodern person asks that were not asked 25 years ago?

2. What specific influence does Hinduism have upon the “new-age” movement in the West?

3. How can we speak about apologetics in a way that makes it accessible to ordinary people?

4. How do we approach the issue of evil with unbelievers?

5. Does conservative and fundamentalist Christianity actually pose a major problem for serious apologetics in today’s world and if so how do we deal with this problem?

6. Do Marxism and radical Islam have anything in common and if so how do we address these problems?

7. How do we respond to the “So What?” responses of many postmodern hearers?

8. Does our commitment to seeking justice and mercy in society act as a form of apologetics and if so how can we do this better?

9. How do we change every sphere of society?

10. In what ways is the Christian faith “public truth” as Newbigin cogently argues?

11. Is the community of Christ our greatest apologetic and if so what does unity and John 17 have to do with this in actual practice?





The Bottom Billion

2 10 2008

Being “missional” is a recognition that our mission as followers of Jesus is to advance His Kingdom in the world.  As North Americans we have historically viewed that mission as primarily being outside our culture – we are now waking up to the reality it is also very much within our culture.  So, does that mean we stop doing “foreign missions?”  I don’t think it means that at all – in fact I think it would be very selfish to do so.  I do think, however, that there are critical things we need to learn about other cultures (just like there are things we need to learn about our culture) if we are going to be effective and good stewards of what God has given us and the life we  are called to live.

I had not heard of Dr. Paul Collier until I recently stumbled upon him on Ted. Dr. Collier is a professor of economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economics at the University of Oxford. He is a leading authority on African economics with a focus on the causes and consequences of civil war, the effects of aid, and the problems of democracy in poor countries.

What he has to say is not only very interesting but has has direct implications on how we can best help the poor and the consequences if we don’t. The gap between the developed and the developing world and the bottom billion widens ever year. Failure to act effectively will have disastrous effects on our next generation.

A few additional notable items:

  • In January United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kimoon declared 2008 to be “the year of the bottom billion” citing the work of Paul Collier. 
  • Marvin Olasky interviewed Paul Collier last year in World Magazine linked here
  • “One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time.”–Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things Magazine




Karios

29 09 2008

 
Karios is a Greek word that means “when all things come together” and the identifier for a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area.  Their web page is worth a visit to get a flavor for what this new church is all about. They are part of Great Commission Ministries, an affiliation of missional churches – many of which serve university campuses (including a new church plant at FSU). Yes, this is cutting edge but not without solid backing (with guys like Rick Warren, Howard Hendricks, John Maxwell and Luder Whitlock on their Council of Reference).

In particular I thought their vision statement was well written and provides an excellent example of what a church in our post-Christendom culture should be about: 

As a community we are
          gathering a variety of wounded people together
                    crying out to our Creator
                              “breathe new life into us.”
                                        so we can see broken communities…
                              becoming communities of faith
                    bringing the reality of God’s reign
          neighborhood by neighborhood