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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
There's a lot of worry in our churches today. Everyone is asking "How can we stop the tide of young people leaving the church?" Even Bible-believing churches have seen a decrease in the number of young people engaging. But all is not dire.
In our relativistic culture, people generally want to find something that is more meaningful and more solid than the whims of amorphous spirituality that the world preaches. Young people want to take action! In this video I talk about how among Christians, interest in participating in community projects is escalating. That means the Church has a great opportunity to reach out in love, to touch the lives of others, and to show one way Christianity is still incredibly relevant in the world today.
For more on this idea, see my post here.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Over the last several posts, we've been exploring the latest Barna Report on the six major shifts—or Megathemes—that are morphing the Christian church. Each is a bit distressing but each also offers opportunities for Christians to strengthen themselves and become more effective in kingdom work. You can read the entire report here and see past entries here.
Theme #6: The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.Undoubtedly, Thomas Jefferson was one person who had a major impact in the shaping of the United States. As a founding father and the author of the Declaration of Independence, his ideas are still quoted today as the bedrock principles upon which we stand. As the nation’s third president, his purchase of the Louisiana Territory expanded our nation’s borders all the way to the Pacific.
In both ideology and presence, Jefferson’s impact is huge. Now, imagine if Thomas Jefferson decided to stay anonymous. Imagine if he recoiled from his actions and not have anyone know who he is or what he stands for. Would the values that he espoused in the Declaration be held in as high a regard? I don’t think so. Would the U.S be radically different? Absolutely.
Barna reports in the last of his six Megathemes that a similar trend is taking place in American Christianity today. He writes:
Christianity has arguably added more value to American culture than any other religion, philosophy, ideology or community. Yet, contemporary Americans are hard pressed to identify any specific value added. Partly due to the nature of today’s media, they have no problem identifying the faults of the churches and Christian people.As Barna notes, today perception seems to be everything. In our media-obsessed culture, if people don't see a visible effect, they tend to dismiss a movement as irrelevant. Of course, this isn't true, as history has shown. But, in today's world, Christianity can be dismissed as irrelevant more easily than ever before. We forget great men who stood on Christian principles like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King. And much of this is because (a) Christians don't know their own history and (b) Christians aren't showing as many outward acts of love and kindness as in previous years. Barna has it right when he notes:
...The primary obstacle is not the substance of the principles on which Christianity is based, and therefore the solution is not solely providing an increase in preaching or public relations. The most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do--or do not--implement their faith in public and private.
American culture is driven by the snap judgments and decisions that people make amidst busy schedules and incomplete information. With little time or energy available for or devoted to research and reflection, it is people’s observations of the integration of a believer’s faith into how he/she responds to life’s opportunities and challenges that most substantially shape people’s impressions of and interest in Christianity. Jesus frequently spoke about the importance of the fruit that emerges from a Christian life; these days the pace of life and avalanche of competing ideas underscores the significance of visible spiritual fruit as a source of cultural influence.
It’s been said that the problem with America is that we worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship. We need to be more intentional about cultivating visible spiritual fruit. That doesn’t mean we all need to volunteer at a homeless shelter. It can mean that we volunteer to change the oil in a single mom’s car or provide a $25 gas card to a college student, or show an elderly neighbor how to use the Internet. There are many ways we as Christians can reach out to the world and be Jesus’ hands and feet and obey the command of the Apostle who teaches us "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us." (Eph 5:1-2)
Tips on Cultivating Visible FruitFor the individual:
- Look for ways you can help those people you come into contact with regularly: help with a widow’s home repairs, baby-sit for tired parents for free, volunteer at a local shelter.
- Watch the movie Amazing Grace to learn about the story of William Wilberforce.
- Check out our audio lecture of "How Christianity Changed the World" to see the incredible influence Christianity really had on society.
- Encourage your congregation to go out and be Jesus visibly and model this behavior yourself. A story from your experience will make them feel less afraid to do so as well.
- Teach a series on the influence of Christianity in society. People will be surprised to know just how different the world is because of a Christian worldview.
- Create ministries that can help those in need within your congregation or community. Call the city and see if there’s a trash pickup or graffiti removal program that your church can participate in. Then, make sure you hang your church’s banner outside when doing this work. Let those in the community know that it’s the Christian church who cares about its neighborhoods.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Theme #4: Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.In much of the Barna report there haven't been many bright lights. However theme #4 generates some hope. Barna writes:
Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community service activities than has been true in the recent past. While we remain more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing, the expanded focus on justice and service has struck a chord with many. However, despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants' engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power.I think theme #4 resonates beyond the Christian culture to a general desire by the youth of the nation to find something more meaningful in their lives. As we'll discuss next time, moral relativism has been a dominant influence in shaping the values of younger Americans ( as this Barna report shows)—and Christian youth are not exempt from its influence. Given that the boundaries of right and wrong have become so fuzzy as to practically disappear, it's no surprise that young people want to find something to grab onto in providing long-lasting meaning to their lives. Community service fills that need.
However, as the Barna report notes, "Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power." The church has a unique opportunity to do good things for their community; To do things which have a positive impact on those closest to the church itself. In so doing, the church must anchor these actions in the love of Jesus and the Christian worldview.
In his book How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt notes that it was Christians who fought against infanticide, opposed the gladiatorial games, and began the first hospitals and orphanages. They did this because the Christian worldview held that all human beings were made in the image of God and their value was intrinsic to being human, not to the benefit they could offer the state. They also saw that as Jesus sacrificed Himself for them, they should sacrifice for others, thus reflecting their Lord's love of all people. They sought to be like Jesus.
Given that young people today, especially Christian youth, desire to do something deep and meaningful while helping their community, the Church has a great opportunity to reach out in love, to touch the lives of others and to show one way Christianity is still incredibly relevant in the world today.
Tips on Reflecting Christ by Community InvolvementFor the individual:
- There are many local rescue missions who reach out to the homeless. Check the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions site for member organizations.
- Call a local crisis pregnancy center and ask how you can help. You can find one close to you at www.optionline.org
- In whatever outreach you involve yourself, make sure they are a Christian organization with an orthodox statement of faith. Your church may be able to recommend some. You will be assured that those they minister to are not only getting their physical needs met, but their spiritual needs, too.
- Invite an unsaved friend to volunteer with you. You'll have time and an opportunity to expose others to the work of the church.
- Be diligent to check out all the local social service organizations in your area for those that your church can recommend as being sound and faithful to the gospel effort.
- Don't just keep a list of recommended organizations, but announce it and encourage participation from your congregation from the pulpit.
- Have your youth groups plan on volunteering at least once yearly in some type of service project.
- Think about creative ways your church can serve those in need. How about a Saturday morning with all the single moms can bring their cars in and the church men can change the oil or provide basic services? How about a repair ministry to help the elderly fix portions of their homes? There are many ways your church can effective without having to expend more of the budget.
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