Thoughts on Trends Reshaping the Church
- Friday, December 30, 2005
According to the Barna group, four key factors are reshaping the American church. Two of those factors were highlighted in part one of this article. Let me briefly add some comment.
The first factor is the neglect of three critical dynamics in the life of the church: children, family, and prayer. Regarding children, if 80 percent of our youth fall away when they get to college, part of that tragedy has to do with their marginalization by peers and professors who scoff at and tear down Christianity. Our young people are ill-equipped to defend and even maintain the faith. Children must be given a full-orbed biblical worldview if they are to effectively defend the faith in this pluralistic culture.
At the same time, we recognize that simply being instructed in the Christian worldview will not change the heart. For our young people to truly be saved and not walk away from the faith either philosophically or practically, they must be born again. Yet, as we give them solid biblical instruction throughout their formative years right up until the time they leave, not only have we given them that which God uses to convert, the word of God, but we have given them tools by which to think, evaluate the world, and ward off false philosophies by which they will be confronted in the college setting.
As they see and set forth the fact that the biblical worldview is the only worldview that makes sense of the reality we experience, in human terms, they have a better opportunity to be saved than if they either did not think about the things of God or if they could not defend the things of God. Again, God has to save. But, He uses His truth to save and sanctify.
Regarding the family, it will have to be emphasized in terms of functioning as a unit with the father taking his role as prophet, priest, and king seriously. While instruction at church can be individualized (men's ministry, women's ministry, youth ministry, etc.), in addition, the family unit should be instructed as a family. We do not advocate an either/or dynamic but a both/and ministry. The reality is that while the contemporary church will be hard-pressed to do away with youth ministry models that are largely unbiblical simply because we are myopic by nature and assume what we do has been done for two-thousand years, churches do need to find some way to focus on the family, to borrow a phrase.
Our families are being torn apart by the culture in which we live. Some of the issues that factor into that tearing apart include parents who spend more time with careers than with their children; children who spend more time with their friends than their families via school, cell phone, instant messaging, and hanging out; activities that are all consuming; and a general neglect of the things of God. Family devotions are practically non-existent in most homes. At the same time, a sick hybrid exists in most family situations: while parents have little time to spend with their children, they in turn worship their children in the sense that the children are doted upon in terms of things, activities, and freedom.
Many children assume the right to do what they want when they want. Parents allow such by virtue of work fatigue, spiritual ignorance, or being battled so much they simply give up. Children even dictate where parents go to church. By the way, such is not an exception or a minority occurrence, it is the norm. Of course, if those same children decide they don't want to go to church, they don't go.
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