Sunday, February 17, 2008

Has American Christianity Failed?

“American Christianity has largely failed since the middle of the 20th
century because Jesus’ modern-day disciples do not act like Jesus.”

Who would dare say such a thing?

Someone who knows what he’s talking about: George Barna.

If you’re not familiar with the name, George Barna is founder of Barna Research Group, a firm that specializes in studying Christianity in America. In his 2003 book, Think Like Jesus (Ventura, CA: IssacharResources, 2003), Barna reminds us that our worldview – the way we think – determines how we act. Our actions flow out of our worldview. Unfortunately, most born-again Christians don’t have a Biblical worldview, and so don’t act like Jesus.

Just who are born-again Christians? And what’s a Biblical worldview? Let’s define our terms. Barna defines born-again Christians as individuals with “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in (their) life today.” In addition, they believe they “will go to Heaven because (they) have confessed (their) sins and accepted Jesus Christ as (their) savior” (p. 35).

Defining a Biblical worldview is a bit more complicated. We all have a worldview. It shapes our decisions and choices, usually without our ever knowing it. In a nutshell, a worldview is like a pair of eyeglasses we see the world through. The question is, who wrote the prescription? If God wrote it, then we see things the way He wants us to see them. In fact, we see the world from God’s point of view. That’s a Biblical worldview. According to Barna, a person with a Biblical worldview believes in:

certain doctrines that have historically been considered “orthodox Christianity”
absolute truth. You can’t have your truth and I’ll have mine.
The Bible as the source of absolute moral truth

So far, so good. But details from Think Like Jesus give the bad news:

Only one out of four born-again adults (25%) “make their moral and ethical decisions on the basis of the Bible” (p. 36).
Only one out of seven born-again adults (14%) “rely on the Bible as their moral compass and believe that moral truth is absolute” (p. 37).
Most disturbing of all: 91% of all born-again adults and 98% of all born-again teenagers do not have a Biblical worldview (p. 39).

To put it another way - only 9% of born-again adults have a Biblical worldview! Most of these people who claim to have a relationship with Jesus don’t think like Jesus. And if we don’t think like Jesus, you can be sure that we won’t act like Him!

These are the first couple of paragraphs of the article I wrote last year for FaithTalk magazine, a publication of Salem Publishing (sister company of KPXQ radio where we broadcast Every Square Inch - every Saturday morning at 7:00.)

UPDATE 2/4/09

Every Square Inch is now on at 11:00 AM Saturdays - still on KPXQ, AM 1360.


Brian Ring said...

A provocative question.

What, I wonder, is Barna's definition for "successful American Christianity"?

That may help us see if there's a failure or not.

If by failure, he means moral decay in the U.S., I would ask, "IS that one of the goals of the church? - to influence a culture to be moral?"

I tend to think not.

Just a thought... Let's change the question to be, "Has American Mormonism Failed?" The answer is a resounding YES.

Coffee Snob said...

Actually, Brian, the title was mine.

You ask if it's one of the goals of the church "to influence a culture to be moral?"

I'd say yes, since part of the church's goal is to lead people to Christ, and to disciple them toward obedience, and thus toward morality. Since "culture" doesn't exist independent of people, moral people help create/support a moral culture.

Brian Ring said...

Mr. Snob (tee hee, that was fun to type),

I understand your argument, but can you share some bible references to help me understand your point please?