This blog post is largely a reaction to three articles that I have recently read, and a thoughtful synthesis of how these articles are relate to one another. - Larry Stehr
First, from Yahoo News my reaction to “The Most Religious US State Is...” Yup, Mississippi is the leader with 61 percent of residents classified as "very religious". Vermont is the least religious with only 22 percent of the Green Mountain state classified as "very religious". Just note that Texas was not in the top ten, nor the bottom ten. The thing that is most interesting in the Gallup study of American religiosity is that ranking is largely unchanged since the study began in 2008. So roughly 41 percent of Americans still consider themselves "very religious", and 29 percent would classify themselves as "non-religious".
Hold that thought of "largely unchanged since 2008". In “Fourteen Predictions for American Church for 2014” - Part 1 and Part 2 by Thom Rainer, he makes several predictions about changes that the American church will experience as a reaction to changing forces. It is an interesting list and I am sure we can discuss at length any of the 14, but I want to call attention to the trends of a decline in conversion growth, increased emphasis on small groups and movement to community.
I wonder sometime if our trend toward decline conversion growth, while we emphasis small group and community, has to do with focus. I wonder if our movement toward mega church, monolithic worship and aging homogenous 60/40/20 church culture is really on point. In learning to ride a motorcycle one of the first things I learned was "the motorcycle goes where you’re looking." Maybe our lack of conversion growth is a result of what we “really want” as “modern disciples.”
Which leads me finally, to "3 Trends Redefining the Information Age" by Barna Group. This is a very interesting article with two statements that leaped out at me in light of the first two articles.
First, “as adults have become more lonely, Barna research shows there is an enormous percentage of Americans who resonate with the idea of meaning. More than three-quarters of all adults say they are looking for ways to live a meaningful life." This statement seems to run counter to our declining growth from conversion statists. It would seem that people are search for what we have already found in Christ.
I wonder if we are too focused on us reminding ourselves how great it is to know Christ. At the same time we have friends, family, co-workers who are actively searching for life’s meaning, hope and purpose only to encounter our silence on this important issue.
Second, "In this respect, we think there is a significant opportunity for the Christian community to address people’s hunger for meaning, for cultural insights and for ‘curated’ content, while at the same time taking seriously the fact that people are increasingly overwhelmed and distracted." As we build small groups and seek deeper and stronger Biblical community, it is no secret that the world is a distracting place for our most important message. A message of hope and transformational life that is best shared over coffee or in a small group of trusted friends where the deep questions of life can be voiced and HIS message of eternal hope and significance can be delivered.
In conclusion, I guess Christ’s focus on seeking the lost is still the prime directive. It should drive the development of leadership that moves a new believer from wide eye wonder that Christ died for me to seasoned disciple that can and will lead friends and family to discover, yes He did. These three articles remind me that the goal is not to become a disciple, but to become a discipler. Maybe if that happens Texas will be in the top 10 and more than 41 percent will consider themselves “highly religious.”
Just a thought… Comment accepted…