Saturday, July 12, 2008

Three Questions

Why do so few of so many become Christians today in America? Why do so many of the so few do so little once they have become Christians? What can we do about it?

16 comments:

Robert Velarde said...

1st question: Because much of what is represented in our culture today is a caricature of Christianity, not Christian reality.

2nd question: Because too many Christians do not know what it means to live out the Christian worldview, much less understand what that worldview encompasses.

3rd question: We need to represent true Christianity consistently, biblically, and without compromise, and instill the Christian worldview both in terms of understanding and as a daily way of life that infuses everything we do.

Sarah Scott said...

In a slightly different approach, the second question will strategically be attempted first.

2) Christian complacency is perhaps partially due to the fact that so many of the so few have mindlessly adopted the "privatization" of faith philosophy. They keep to themselves what they do not even understand, due to Biblical illiteracy, anti-intellectualism, and an addiction to emotivism unanchored to reason. The most the many engage in is to attend the token small group, where they can freely socialize and emote. (There are, however, effective small groups, I trust.) On the whole, Christians have become a mile wide and an inch deep.

1) Because of these Christians (see above), "sharing the faith" simply becomes stunted at the level of "loving" people without sharing the truth (Mormons and Buddhists can do this!). Either the Truth is not fully understood by the potential sharer, or it is deemed too offensive and personal to bring up, short of a possible vague reference to a person named Jesus who "loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life". Either you "have the experience", or you don't. That is often the end.

Therefore, so few become Christians because few have “the experience", and so many remain unconvinced of the exclusivity, importance, and truth of the Christian claims.

3) Laziness, an addiction to the tragedy of perpetual (often false) exuberance, the promoted value of accepting all ideas and opinions (unless they are strong opinions), and many levels (Biblical, historical, classical, etc.) of illiteracy, all contribute to the lack of being equipped (or willing) to go and make disciples. The few souls won for Christ are rarely discipled, rendering them largely ineffective evangelistic (and beyond) warriors for their Lord and Savior.

In sum, we must truly commit ourselves to pursuing theological accuracy-- the "true truth". In doing so, we need to emphasize competent and wise discipleship-nurturing deep, spiritual relationships, educating and equipping each other for service- rather than simply striving to shallowly "mass convert and move on".

pgepps said...

1) because of the hardness of their hearts
2) see (1)
3) preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine

ChrisB said...

Why do so few of so many become Christians today in America?
Many mistakenly think they are Christians; other see no need for Christ (e.g., I'm a good person...). No few have bought that "science has disproved Christianity."

Why do so many of the so few do so little once they have become Christians?
Of course, many aren't really Christians. And many have been told that once they walk an aisle and pray a prayer they're done. Then there's good old-fashioned American laziness. And sin.

What can we do about it?
On soul at a time...

Aaron Beitler said...

I’ll take an existential hack at #1 (Why do so few of so many become Christians today in America?)

It is true that the reign of science has privatized spiritual knowledge. But it seems to me there is an additional, nearly as damaging effect:

In our science-driven society, Christians have been seduced by the idea that all knowledge should look like scientific knowledge, be presented like scientific knowledge, and should feel like scientific knowledge (that is, cold; without reference to the person). As a result, spiritual and ethical discussions in America rarely take on the subjective tone which they are allowed in other parts of the world. We tend to speak only in sanitary, scientific terms with one another.

This “scientism” is tragic when it comes time to show an audience how to live spiritually. They see that instead of relationships we have lab partners. Instead of disciples we have students (in the lowest sense of the word). We are alienated. We cannot share the gospel as an authentic, organic alternative to the scientific world in which we live.

So in sum: Not only has spritual information been privatized, the private world has been scientized.

Rick said...

The concept of sin has all but disappeared. People believe their sin is relative, and it is not much worse than what they see on the big screen (or little screen). They have become desensitized.

Add that to all the distractions that keep them from thinking about eternity, and you've got a very tough nut to crack.

The Holy Spirit is the answer. He alone can convict. Perhaps He is not moving as much because His church is not much more distinguished from the rest of the world.

Darrell said...

1. Matthew 7:13

2. Revelation 3:14-22; II Timothy 4:3-4

3. II Timothy 4:2 & 2:23-26; Jude 1:3

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Last week I was asking this question with much anguish. I sat down with a friend who is currently writing his dissertation at UC-Berkley for his doctorate in philosophy, and we went over a paper I wrote delineating the Christian worldview. Needless to say it was a very difficult exercise. I know it made me better for it, but I really got taken apart. But one question near the end of our discussion was "What is the end of humanity" and in response he said, "I don't think there is one... I believe in evolution." (This answers was a searching one too… not an arrogant declaration of unbelief).

This isn't an argument so much against evolution per se in my mind... but naturalistic variety certainly has had cultural influence that fundamental to unbelief.

Also, I echo the thoughts about the Holy Spirit above.

Mark said...

Christianity in general is consumed with just about everything EXCEPT preaching the gospel.

This trickles down through the body. Lost people are not hearing the gospel as often they should. Believers are not living the gospel because they are not hearing the gospel.

I think much of the answer lies in the church. Not as an organization to blame, but as a serious introspection. We should consider questions like:

1.Whose church is it, anyways?

2.What is the function and purpose of the church? What has God revealed in this matter?

3. Are we doing that? How much time is spent on that verses other things unrelated to that?

4. The church must once and for all settle where her allegence lies. She's constantly pandering to cultural whims, the polls, political movements, etc. Who is the head of the church? And will we unquestionably acknowledge Christ as Lord of His church?

5. Are we prepared to radically obey what the word of God says about: how His church should be ordered, who should be involved in what, etc.

For all the talk about the Christian consensus in America, unfortunately the evangelical church seems rather weak and worldly. Weak in that it has no backbone, as one author put it, we can be "Evanjellyfish". Worldly not so much in the sense of WHAT we are doing, but WHY we are doing it.

Often we do the right things. But even when we do the right things, we often lack to spine to be doing it for the right reasons.

We can not look at the salvation of sinners atomisticaly. God works through the church, and the spiritual state of the church has a lot to do with the progress of the gospel in the world. Salvation and Christ's church are intertwined. They can not be separated. If Christ's church is in shambles and not obeying its Lord, then how can we expect God to bless its endeavors in reaching the lost.

I believe we need to recover our vision of the church, recover our commitment to God's word, and start living like Christianity is true in its totality. I believe God would bless us when we sincerely think like that (and do that).

Paul D. Adams said...

Where is prayer? Does it have a place in the answer to #3?

That it's missing is quite telling of many/most of the posts and tenor if this blog. Far too much analysis and whining. Sad.

Tony Lombardo said...

Great questions that I also have been pondering much of late.
While I agree with much of what others have written here, I would put forward the view that what is lacking is a substantive, incarnated picture of what the church manifesting the kingdom of God on earth looks like. We lack the imagination required to motivate. People (including myself here, of course) look at the contemporary church scene and wonder what can't be completely explained via the categories of naturalistic sociology and psychology. We need to behold the power of God revealed in human weakness in such a way that we realize no other explanations will suffice. Until then, don't be surprised when folks never quite "get it" and throw themselves into kingdom work.

Heath Countryman said...

My answers:

1. The church is broken.
2. The church is broken.
3. Break the church.

In my opinion, the Kingdom of God and the church of today are but distant cousins. I do not advocate the discarding of the church, as some today are apt to do, but if the church is ever going to be effective in disciplemaking (and not just "soul winning"), we need to continue rethinking what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Thomas said...

When I think of "Christian", I envision a blow hard fundamentalist Republican chalk full of conservative credentials and predictable hackneyed beliefs. No thanks. I prefer to call myself a bible-believing Buddhist than associate with that crowd. I've been able to win many over to Christ simply by disassociating myself with evangelicalism/fundamentalism. But you probably think I'm leading them all to the lake of fire anyways.

Doug Groothuis said...

Thomas:

Well, that was provocative, but it is hard to know what you mean by any of it. What to you take a Christian to be? Do you believe in the church or are you a soloist? I am curious.

DG

Thomas said...

I believe in the church, but I go to an ecumenical non-sectarian fellowship. Our pastor is an inclusive Princeton grad; and curiously enough, we see fundamentalism/evangelicalism as the same pernicious force that you would probably see in our parish. I read Jesus as more of a liberal. We recently read a book by W. Meeks in Sunday school and I thought that he was pretty right on.

I predict that you'll cry "double-standard"--but hey, I think I'm correct. Let's not devolve into all kinds of hypothetical questions to make a case for conservative Christianity. I read some of that stuff in college (Columbia) and it didn't convince me.

My only point is that irascible fundamentalists turn many of us away from evangelicalism. We end up in liberal churches that probably don't fit within your "Christian" category. So that's my rabble-rousing answer to your initial questions.

And I'm gay so I don't like to stoned or sneered at from the bully pulpit.

pgepps said...

...having numbered more than a few Buddhists among my personal acquaintance, both here and abroad, I find "bible-believing Buddhist" to be chock-full of irony. Probably not the kind intended.

@thomas--
Siddartha probably would chide you for being so enmeshed in causality (the cycle of dis-ease aroused by desire) as to feel the need to capitalize "Buddhist" while rejecting the cap for "bible." He'd say you've trapped yourself in the words, I think, and are unable to see through your illusions, your needs and the necessitarian consequences of your desires. Oddly, Paul and James said much the same thing, but I don't think you'd need me to help you hear them, right? being Bible-believing and inclusivist and all, you've heard their words thoroughly?