I believe the church of Jesus Christ faces more challenges today than at any time in history.
The issues of homosexuality, abortion, inspiration of Scripture and spiritual “diversity” have brought divides into many churches.
In the media, there is rarely a positive portrayal of Christianity. As I’ve recently reported, the few so-called Christian characters represented on the networks have either abandoned core biblical values or are depicted as callous ogres. Further, the media typically tout diverse forms of spirituality that embrace alternative modes of sexuality, worship and lifestyle.
Sadly, countless pastors and church leaders have folded under cultural pressure and have attempted to socialize the Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, those of us who remain faithful to the Scriptures are seen as unintelligent and irrational.
But the Bible warns us that the Gospel will be seen as ridiculous to many: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. …” (1 Corinthians 1:15) It is nothing new to be seen as an idiot for steadfastly following Jesus Christ.
Even in this age of “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” evangelical pastors must determine to never serve as arbitrators of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which never changes. Its truth remains as pertinent as ever today.
I read with interest late last year a Barna Group report on “the 12 Most Significant Religious Findings from 2006 Surveys.”
In it, pollster George Barna found that, while most Americans claim to be “deeply spiritual” and say that their religious faith is “very important” to them, only 15 percent of respondents who regularly attend a Christian church ranked their relationship with God as the top priority in their life.
That’s an astounding discovery.
Mr. Barna noted, “As alarming as that finding was, its significance was magnified by research showing that on average pastors believe that 70 percent of the adults in their congregation consider their relationship with God to be their highest priority in life.”
The very important report also found that “three out of every four teenagers have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity.” The report also detailed that only one-third of 8-to-12-year-olds say a church has made “a positive difference” in their life; one-third said prayer is very important in their life; and most said they would rather be popular than to do what is morally right.
That is the climate we are facing today as we seek to share the Gospel with a new generation. I believe our young people are embracing hedonism and self-gratification as never before. And why not, when the media are strangely fixated on the lives of celebrities and “celebutantes” (people who are famous solely for being rich and famous). We are hero-worshiping people who have no moral compass, and the results down the road will be devastating.
The church must offer unambiguous alternatives.
But Dr. Ergun Caner, president of the Liberty Theological Seminary, in a February National Liberty Journal article, warns that “many churches these days are following the latest trends, while often ignoring Scripture. They choose to do what is popular and culturally acceptable, rather than what is right.”
Dr. Caner, a converted Muslim, added, “Some pollster tells us that people do not like public invitations, so some churches have stopped giving them. Polls tell us that sermons on hell make people uncomfortable, so pastors preach on positive thinking instead. The polls show that using words such as sin and salvation are unpopular, so we find prominent television preachers conveniently avoiding those terms.”
Those are tough words, but I believe they are words that the church must hear. Evangelical pastors simply must determine to lead by biblical principle, even though those principles are being increasingly disparaged in the popular culture.
I believe it is time for a re-evaluation of the church’s efforts. It is obvious that we are losing the cultural battle in many ways, especially with our young people. We will not succeed in reaching this world for Christ unless our churches determine to lovingly reach out with the Word of God to our fellow man.
In this new year, may we commit to reaching more people than ever with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to boldly living our lives with a renewed commitment to holy living.
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