One of the leading researchers of modern cultural behaviors is George Barna and Mr. Barna said at the close of 2006 if the present behaviors and attitudes of church-going people were to be measured against the biblical standards of faith and practice, then the church in America is, at best, lukewarm. “Very limited effort is devoted to spiritual growth,” he says. “Most Americans experience ‘accidental spiritual growth’ since there is generally no plan or process other than showing up at a church and absorbing a few ideas here and there. Even then, few people have a defined understanding of what they are hoping to become, as followers of Christ.”
Didn’t Jesus say something about a “lukewarm” church?
Barna went on to say that pastors by and large are overly optimistic about the devotion of their congregations, saying that 70% of the adults attending consider their personal faith walk to be the highest priority in their life. Actually that number is waaaay out of kilter as Mr. Barna’s research has uncovered the sad, sad truth: only 15% of church-going adults make their relationship to God the most important aspect of their lives.
Come back to earth, pastors.
A long-held assumption came further into the light of evidence in his 2006 survey: the church is being ingested by modern culture and willingly going down its throat. Barna says only one in five of churched adults consider themselves holy although large numbers of those polled have no idea what ‘holiness’ means. Only one in three (35%) think that God expects them to be holy. “The notion of personal holiness has slipped out of the consciousness of the vast majority of Christians,” he reports.
Mr. Barna has uncovered a trend within the church community which he calls “bifurcation.” Simply put, he sees an emerging (counter) culture within the church breaking away from those who are typically labeled “born again.” He calls these the “Christian Revolutionaries” and characterizes them as having “demonstrated substantially higher levels of community service, financial contributions, daily Bible study, personal quiet times each day, family Bible studies, daily worship experiences, engagement in spiritual mentoring, and evangelistic efforts. They also had a series of beliefs that were much more likely than those of typical born again adults to coincide with biblical teachings.”
In his end of the year report, Barna further states, “(P)eople do not have an accurate view of themselves when it comes to spirituality. American Christians are not as devoted to their faith as they like to believe. They have positive feelings about the importance of faith, but their faith is rarely the focal point of their life or a critical factor in their decision-making. The fact that few people take the time to evaluate their spiritual journey, or to develop benchmarks or indicators of their spiritual health, facilitates a distorted view of the prominence and purity of faith in their life.”
It seems to me that the church in these ‘self-enlightened’ times has become one of the many housepets of our culture. No, she’s not one of the chosen indoor ones at the master’s knee but rather kept outside, thrown a bone every now and then, and held behind a fence. Rather than looking to the sky or fence for redemption, she sits at the back door, nose pressed against the glass, longingly staring into the master’s darkened living quarters, wishing for the warm fire and favorable place at the master’s knee.
She forgets that her true Master is a Lion and she His lioness. She forgets when culture was shaped by her, when her roar could be heard ’round the world, when the gates of hell could not prevent her from advancing. So here she sits, behind all her stained-glass bravado, tamed, neutered and spayed, foraging for crumbs in the lawns of social Darwinism, satisfied to be in the menagerie.
My, how times have changed…