Six Megaproblems and the Gospel Ain’t One (via Barna)

Yesterday, Barna posted the results of a the study – Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research in 2010. The six points are numbered below in bold. The research is based research conducted throughout 2010. I’m unsure how many polls or people in total were involved. It gives me no pleasure to read these conclusion, but I am also not surprised.

There is a lot that could be said about the six points, but I will only comment briefly on each one. It seems that points 2 – 6 all fall back on the problem in point 1.

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.

Theology informs the Christian life in every aspect. It is out this point that the issues below flow. The church is to be equipped for ministry via sound doctrine. This is clear in Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (ESV) The lack of sound doctrine leads to instability. At least part of the problem must stem from church leaders/pastors given the charge in Titus 1:9 that they  “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (ESV) If instruction and correction is not being given how is the church being equipped?

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.

The apparent irony in this points is that as Christians grow inwardly they should be more outreach-oriented. As stated above, if Christians are growing theologically they should become equipped for ministry for their daily lives. I also wonder if part of the problem here is from American culture where we are very individualistic and self-involved.

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.

Theological literacy would inform people that spiritual principles offer pragmatic solutions for life. More importantly, theological literacy would teach contentment and meaning in life. However, it is not clear whether or not the people in this point are Christians. This goes back to the failings of Christians in points 1 and 2 above.

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.

Community action would seem a good thing depending on how it’s carried out. Though Barna points out that Christians here are more “self-indulgent than self-sacrificing.” This brings us back to the missing theology in point 1 and the outreach issue in point 2. Scripture does give us warrant for our actions in these areas, actually in all areas of life. Cf. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 ESV)

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.

Barna even names “biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence” as contributing factors for this issue. Again, back to point 1, theology matters. Proper theological equipping should allow people to lovingly engage others through words and actions. If we believe the gospel, then universal moral tolerance becomes the most unloving position a Christian can take.

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

Given the above points, this make for a logical conclusion. If Christians are more involved in community action, but still invisible, this points to a lack outreach which may be the result of tolerance. This brings the issue right back to a lack of theological literacy which includes living among one’s culture.  Of course, there will be differing opinions on how cultural influence takes place and what it looks like. A general theological solution for this issue is offered in Jesus’ own words, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture,morality,relativism,theology

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Miller December 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Really? A rap song reference?

2 Mark December 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Yeah, I know. I thought about it and went with it. I’m not the writer you are. 🙂 Maybe a bad choice on my part, but….but…but…

3 Dan Smith December 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

I don’t know if you’ve read The Second Coming of the Church, by Barna, but in the first chapter he mentions some of what is mentioned in this study. For example, in the book, he notes that fewer people read thier Bibles, which would obviously indicate and lead to further theological illiteracy. The biggest reason why this is a big deal? He published that book in 1998! That means in 12 years, things have only gotten worse!

4 Mark December 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Dan, 12 years ago, wow. Thanks for pointing that out. I agree that things have gotten worse.

5 Dan Smith December 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Well, I must humbly admit that I haven’t done everything I could have to fix the problem either. Many of those years were unfortunately spent as a bystander myself. Probably like many in the church I suppose, hence the reason we’re in this mess.

6 mike December 16, 2010 at 12:06 am

yikes. thanks for sharing this. we need to amp up our prayer and evangelism.

7 Cathy M. December 18, 2010 at 9:09 am

Kinda seems like all 6 are really just restating #1. Enjoyed looking over your blog.

8 Mark December 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Cathy, yep, I agree. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the encouragement.


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