where we are.

according to George Barna, in 2001 8% of americans were evangelicals defined as follows:

All Barna Research studies define “evangelicals” as individuals who meet the born again criteria; say their faith is very important in their life today; believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; acknowledge the existence of Satan; contend that eternal salvation is possible only through God’s grace, not through good deeds; believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. In this approach, being classified as an evangelical has no relationship to church affiliation or attendance, nor does it rely upon people describing themselves as “evangelical.”

This classification model indicates that only 8% of adults are evangelicals. Barna Research data show that 12% of adults were evangelicals a decade ago, but the number has dropped by a third as Americans continue to reshape their theological views.

8%. Now let’s assume that this number is still reasonably accurate. (in fact, it could be higher or lower by now, but there is some indication that it remains reasonably accurate.).

more from that Miami Herald opinion piece:

They’re [the Southern Baptists are] admitting what their own studies show — that evangelicals almost never convert a native-born American who wasn’t raised in a church. That most evangelical growth comes from stealing the sheep from other denominations. And that they’ve stolen about all they can.

They’re also admitting that most evangelicals won’t evangelize. And if they did, it wouldn’t get them anywhere because the usual methods don’t work. They don’t work first because they usually rest on the idea that Christians are the only ones saved. In today’s religiously equalitarian culture, that assertion causes evangelicals to seem distastefully holier-than-thou.

Conversion tactics also focus on telling people the Good News as though no one else knows it. But most everyone has heard it. Again and again. The trouble is that they aren’t convinced. They aren’t scared of hell. They aren’t hoping for heaven. And Christians haven’t been good at giving anyone better reasons than that for following Jesus.

They have reasons. They just aren’t telling them. They need to.

From outward appearances, Christian faith doesn’t change behavior for the better.

Evangelicals divorce, do drugs, drink alcohol, have sex outside marriage, have abortions — you name it, they do it, at the same rates as everyone else. At the same time, they are well known for espousing political policies that favor the rich over the poor, would deny equal rights to gay people and support war.

Whether these position are right or wrong, the culture at large judges them to be un-Christian. So the evangelical witness sinks even further. But that’s not the worst of it. Stories of great evangelical faith don’t convert people either.

emphasis added

So there we are as of August 2008. The question remains, what do we do?

I find myself in conversations all the time with people about life. Most of the people that I talk to on a regular or even first time basis (because of the introduction) know that I am a believer in Jesus. I find that people who want to argue against Christianity spend a good bit of their time arguing about abortion, abstinence education, stem cell research, homosexual marriage, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

It occurs to me that, as Christ followers, we are ambassadors for Christ entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.

Ambassadors carry messages from their president/prime minister/king. Our message to this nation, to our friends, neighbors, coworkers etc, is the Gospel. Most of the people we see every day are already familiar with this Gospel.

Most of the people we see every day are also familiar with the lives of one or more people who profess to follow Christ. They have already decided to reject Christ.

Some reject God because they want God to answer to their standard of “justice”, “fairness”, or “goodness”, and when something happens that offends their subjective notions of these things, then they reject God.

Others reject God because of what they see in the lives of supposed Christians. They see the same exact things in those lives as they see in the mirror. The same adultery, unhappiness, critical spirit, unloving selfishness etc. etc.

In order to reach this world, we have to do at least three non-negotiable things.

We must first exalt the one true God who is not beholden to our notions of what He should do. We must exalt God as the sovereign majesty of the entire world who is righteous and holy and good. What He does is, by definition, holy, righteous and good. He is the potter and He has the freedom of the potter to make what He wants to make.

God is not exalted when we preach a prosperity gospel that proclaims “if you believe, God will bless you with health, wealth, safety and whatever else you selfishly want.” God is exalted when we preach that God is glorious in every situation of life. God is exalted when we trust Him completely with the cancer, job loss and rebellious kids that come our way.

The second thing that we simply must do is to live our lives with love. We must love God with all of our hearts, soul, mind and strength. We must love each other sacrificially and fervently. We must put the needs of others before those of ourself.

Finally, we must live with sobermindedness. We must prepare our minds for action (gird up the loins of our minds) and set our hope fully on the grace to be revealed. Remembering always that this world is not our home. It is a temporary place where we have been sent as messengers/ambassadors for the one true King and His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.


One Response

  1. […] Posted on September 14, 2008 by bkingr this bit of the Miami Herald opinion piece quoted below must also be addressed: Evangelicals divorce, do drugs, drink alcohol, have sex outside marriage, […]

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