The issues of the age…why “church” is losing

719276Last year, Dr. Scot McKnight featured a blog post on Jesus Creed regarding Pew Research results regarding what they label as, “the Religious Landscape.”  In the original article, these results were specifically shared in relation to the Southern Baptists.  As you know, I am no SoBap.  Even so, I am interested in how religious mores are being shaped by contemporary culture and trends.  What I decided to do was copy the pertinent info for you to be able to see.  I especially want to share with you the “conclusions” (three specific points) at the bottom of the article.  Take note of some of the issues raised in this article. I’m actually going to underline the insights I believe are especially relevant for the churchworld:

The Pew Research Center has featured results from the Religious Landscape Survey in a couple of stories over the last month that have bearing on these issues.  The survey was conducted in 2014 and compared with a similar survey in 2007. As reported in May 2015 (here), over the seven years between these surveys the Christian share of the US population dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% and the Evangelical Protestant share dropped from 26.3% to 25.4%. Those who claim none or unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, nothing in particular) grew from 16.1% to 22.8% accounting for the lion’s share of the decrease in the Christian population. The results released this year dig into this a bit deeper, Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind. The chart to the right comes from this report. Most of the “nones” shed their religious identity in adulthood … 78%, or about 17 to 18% of the US population. Among the common themes:

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. (Robin’s comment – my experience is that this is true. A new book by Os Guinness makes note of the fact that we are experiencing the full impact in our times of cultural shifts in essential belief systems).  This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God (Robin’s comment – again, this has been my experience).  

Another 20% cite the shortcomings of religious institutions, with hierarchy, power, and abuse scandals playing a role (Robin’s comment – no one in churchworld wants to address these issues – to those in religious institutionalism, their motto is “don’t rock my boat.”).  Among the more damning from the Pew study: “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things,” “Rational thought makes religion go out the window,” and “Because I think religion is not a religion anymore. It’s a business … its all about money” (Robin’s comment – remember, culture is not rebelling against Jesus and spirituality but about “religion”)

The Unaffiliated makeup a growing share across generations…the none phenomenon is not just about younger people.  In fact, it is not entirely generational! It is also important to realize that the growth in “unaffiliated” is both between and within generations. Among those in the cohort to which my children belong (born between 1990 and 1996) 36% identify as unaffiliated, compared with 17% of my cohort. On top of this, the percentage of unaffiliated in each cohort increased between 2007 and 2014 (well, except my kids’ cohort because they were not adults in 2007 and thus not part of the survey). If trends continue, by 2021 we may well see half of those born between 1990 and 1996 claiming “unaffiliated.”

The Pew story on factors concludes:  “Whether Millennials will become more religious as they age remains to be seen, but there is nothing in our data to suggest that Millennials or members of Generation X have become any more religious in recent years. If anything, they have so far become less religious as they have aged.”

Solutions? Most of the “solutions” I’ve (the “I’ve” is the author of this piece) seen proposed focus on aspects of Christian practice that could be called “style.” Music style, for example. How we worship on Sundays. Now I’m not against music or other aspects of style evolving over time, but our core problem isn’t style. Nor is it “doctrine.” Rather, we have a credibility problem. The reasons I pulled out above highlight this point.

(1) Christians do not live and behave according Christian principles. “Hypocrite” is too often a valid judgment.

(2) Religion isn’t religion, it is just another business.  The focus is too often on numbers and ‘success,’ profit, prestige, and power, personalities and performance. A church is a Sunday morning (or Saturday evening) audience. This is just, plain wrong. The church is the community of God’s people and this is the only worthwhile thing we have to offer, now and for eternity.

(3) Rational thought makes religion go out the window. This is front and center in my town and among colleagues. Christians are often seen as opposed to reason, to science, but this goes far beyond science (Robin’s comment – I’ve often told my friends and people in our faith community that churches operate in such a manner where they expect people to leave their brains at the door and accept everything by blind “faith”).  We need to teach people how to think and live as Christians in a changing world. 

I don’t know about you but this is a good article on which to reflect.  The author’s three points at the end do hit “home” with many of the non-Jesus followers that I know as well as those who have walked away.  I could add some more reasons, but for the purpose of this post, this is enough to get you thinking…SO, got an opinion?  Go ahead and make a comment OR email me your comments at rdugall@apu.edu.

 

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Developing a Discipleship Strategy…

1Discipleship – Definition

Being a disciple is being a follower and student of Jesus.  Jesus Christ is MORE than our Savior and God…Jesus is our teacher, leader and Lord.  Being a disciple is best defined as being an apprentice of Jesus.  That must be a definite and obvious kind of thing. To make a mystery of it is to misunderstand it. There is no good reason why people should ever be in doubt as to whether they themselves are his students or not. Anyone who actually is an apprentice and co-laborer with Jesus in his or her daily existence is living out or putting into action what it means to be a “Christian” in every sense of the word. We are not only SAVED by Grace but we LIVE by Grace.  Living by Grace is what it means to be a Disciple of Jesus.  I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner in which he did all that he did.   Disciples have PURPOSE and a MISSION.  Discipleship is the ENGINE that drives mission.

How does one “lean into” discipleship? 

1 – First thing we should do is emphatically and repeatedly express to Jesus our desire to see him more fully as he really is. Remember, the rule of the kingdom is to ask.

2 – Second, we should use every means at our disposal to come to see him more fully.

3 – Seriously look at the lives of others who truly have apprenticed themselves to him. Often his radiance in such people gives us very bright and strong impressions of his own greatness.

4 – But the final step in becoming a disciple is decision. We become a life student of Jesus by deciding.  Sooner or later, you will either “drop your nets and follow” or not…your call!

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Discipleship and Jesus as Lord – Non-Dualism

When you say, “Jesus is Lord” you are saying a mouthful!  Why?  Because there are vast implications of the Lordship of Christ in your life.

First of all, you can’t say “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, there is no such thing as “dualistic Lordship.” Jesus will not be shared with another as Lord of your life.  Ask yourself, “who leads, directs, guides, and holds me accountable for my life day by day?  Who is it that guides me and my decisions and leads me through the hours that I live?”  Jesus directs your ONE Life in Him!

How will we Simplify Discipleship

Here are two keys:

  1. Discipleship can and should be discovery-based. This means that we can actually discover what we need to know about God by opening the Word of God ourselves while the Spirit leads and teaches us.
  2. The second key is “obedience-based discipleship.” A disciple is one who loves and obeys. Therefore obedience-based discipleship focuses on becoming one who follows, one who lives out what God has shown, one who consistently steps into the place of “your will not my will be done.”  Jesus said it, “if you love me, you will obey me.”

The bottom line is that a disciple is one who is coming to know God himself through personal experience (followership) NOT merely a bunch of knowledge (ABOUT God).

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The Discipleship Mission, Vision and Strategy

 The Mission and Vision of this Discipleship Strategy, Core Values, Strategic Overview

Vision – Our Preferred Future

The Vision of this Discipleship Strategy is to build a movement of like-minded followers of Jesus for the purpose of actualizing the Great Commission of God (Matthew 28:16ff).

The Vision is simple – Let us venture in a discipleship partnership to take the Great Commission seriously in a creative manner.  In a consensual partnership, let us commit to building the Kingdom of God through the intentional building of redemptive discipling relationships wherever the Holy Spirit may lead.

Mission – What we do

The mission is to make disciples of all nations – to love God, love others and live for Jesus.  Our mission is evangelizing the lost and unchurched, making disciples intentionally, teaching all to faithfully respond to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and building up people of faith so that each is exercising their giftedness in the context of loving, supportive, and challenging community.

Philosophy – Why we do it

The DNA of growth and fulfilling the great commission lies in the heart/life of every follower of Jesus.

We adhere to the belief that God works through His people.   To be a follower of Jesus is to understand that mission is the heartbeat of God.

These challenging times call for an uncompromising, courageous, and brave new action that spurs the community of Christ as well as individual Christ-followers to renewed faithfulness.

Our lifestyles must be steeped in belief that the character and life of Jesus must be freshly incarnated in the lives we live.

The Church, any church, exists to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world NOT primarily to enhance our private lives, self-esteem, or self-directed purpose.

Gift-based ministry is the foundation of a community that is alive and faithful.

We align ourselves with God’s missionary purposes in the world and are “sent” to be live the life and values of Jesus.

Mission is defined not by what a faith community DOES but by its very IDENTITY…followers of Jesus are daily on a mission.

Core Values – What We Adhere to in Discipleship

  1. The primacy of Scripture as our story of living.
  2. The indispensable role of the Holy Spirit as equipper and empowerer.
  3. The role of community: We aim to both learn and do in the context of community.
  4. Theological praxis: We aim to always both learn and do; to never divorce hearing from obedience. Nothing has been learned in a life in Jesus until it can be “done.”
  5. Spiritual transformation: The goal is spiritual transformation into Christlikeness for the sake of the world.
  6. Missional focus: We are called to go to the world after we come to Christ. We ARE a mission.
  7. A commitment to the whole church: We love and seek to bless the whole Church…that is our deep desire. Our focus is not to demean, bad mouth, or become arrogant.