A recent Barna survey found that about 60% of adults under age 40 believe that Buddha, Muhammad, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation. This is just the most dramatic finding of that survey. There are other survey elements that show the younger generation also embraces relativistic morality, and holds a completely unbiblical view of the person of Jesus.
Views like that are simply not Christian beliefs, and it is highly unlikely that most of the people who hold those beliefs are saved. And what is even more tragic is that these same beliefs are also prominent in many churches – even evangelical churches.
As we evaluate what is going on with this, we can only come to one conclusion – that generally speaking, churches are not doing a good job of clearly teaching biblical Christianity to those who are sitting in the pews. This is a really hard matter for dedicated Christians to get their head around, but it is something that we better tackle if we want biblical faith to advance into the next generation.
So, what are the root causes of this phenomenon? I believe there are several reasons this kind of biblical illiteracy is increasing, and we need to address all of them.
One cause is a heart problem – personal complacency. In order to confront the relativistic secular culture that we live in, we have to be willing, as individual Christians, to take it on head-to-head. It can be rather uncomfortable doing this because we are now in the minority and popular culture is solidly against us. Our opponents have the media, the education establishment, and the political establishment, along with virtually every other societal institution, on its side. It is easier just to crawl under a rock and not get involved.
Another cause is lack of knowledge. Many Christians would like to engage the culture, but simply are not equipped for the task. This is where the church can really make a difference. Potentially, the most powerful theological institution in the world is the local church. This is the place where the saints should be being equipped for the work of ministry. This is where Christians should be learning why secular worldview beliefs are not true, why biblical beliefs are true, and how to effectively share the truth of the Christian faith with those who are on the other side.
Of course, acknowledging these two problems is not that big a deal. The truth of these statements is quite obvious to anyone who looks at it, even on a superficial level. What is a big deal is figuring out how to grapple with it – and the obstacles are found in some very diverse places.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the average, everyday Christian. Sadly, most Christians are not willing to put out the effort necessary to become equipped for this great challenge. They are content to sit back and let the pastor do the heavy lifting in that department, and will not participate in opportunities to learn even when they are presented. Of course, there are many notable exceptions to his generalization, but all you have to do is look at what the majority of self-identified Christians do and the truth is there for all to see.
Another big obstacle has to do with church programming. Both pastors and church members contribute to this problem. Every church has its traditions and ways of doing things – and in the typical church, that does not include a strong emphasis on discipleship training. Typically, the biggest focus is the worship service followed by Bible study. This is not a complaint because those are essential parts of a church’s work. But leaving out discipleship training where believers are equipped to confront society’s wrong beliefs is as bad as leaving out the worship service. This allows the majority of Christians to become passive, and places unreasonable and wrong expectations on the church’s leadership.
We are losing the next generation because we are not equipping this generation to do the work God has called us to do. And until that problem is addressed in a big way, the problem will continue to get worse.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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