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GENERATIONS AND THE BIBLE
A new research report from the Barna Group examines recent nationwide studies on how different generations of American adults view and use the Bible. For the purposes of this research, the Mosaic generation refers to adults who are currently ages 18 to 25; Busters are those ages 26 to 44; Boomers are 45 to 63; and Elders are 64-plus.
There is often more that unites the various generations than divides them. The Barna research regarding the Bible confirms the central role this revered text has for most Americans. A majority of each of the four generations believes that the Bible is a sacred or holy book. Another commonality is that millions within each of the generations report reading the pages of Scripture in the last week.
There is also significant generational overlap regarding people’s views on the nature of the Bible. Similar proportions of the generations embrace the most conservative and most liberal views. For instance, the highest view of the Bible is that it is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word, is embraced by one-quarter of Mosaics (27%), Busters (27%), and Boomers (23%), and one-third of Elders (34%). The extreme view on the other end is that the Bible is not inspired by God is embraced by proportions that are also statistically close to one another, including Mosaics (25%), Busters (19%), Boomers (22%), and Elders (22%).
However, despite these similarities, the Barna studies show that the youngest generations are charting a new, unique course related to the Bible. Here are the types of changes being forged by young adults:
Less Sacred: While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).
¡öLess Accurate ¨C Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.
More Universalism: Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.
Skepticism of Origins: Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.
Less Engagement: While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off, the younger the person, the less likely then are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.
Bible Appetite: Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.
David Kinnaman, who directed the analysis of the research, explained that the central theme of young people’s approach to the Bible is skepticism. They question the Bible’s history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life. This mindset certainly has its challenges but it also raises the possibility of using their skepticism as an entry point to teaching and exploring the content of the Bible in new ways.
The president of the Barna Group pointed out that since many young people want to learn about the Bible it should be an opportunity for Christian leaders.Perhaps young people want to participate more in the process of learning, not simply attend Bible lectures or be trained in classrooms. Mosaics and Busters have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual. Their expectations may or may not be entirely healthy, but without considering these issues, the Bible will continue to lose hold on the next generation.
Where at one time, having sexual relations outside marriage was considered liberating, current studies show that it damages one's ability to trust, affecting future relationship, one's respect for self, affecting every decision and diminishing the value of right decisions, and one's respect for health.
Liberating? At what cost.
Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney released a study at Harvard University that shows that exposure to immorality and participation in sexual acts during childhood years actually changes the brain, interrupting the normal production and usage of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain for the remainder of the life.
These chemicals, when released properly, create the "monogamy syndrome", in that moment bonding the person to another. If this occurs outside of marriage, that moment of bonding never fully takes place, even after marriage.1
According to the study, listen, "But that bonding, which acts like adhesive tape or Velcro, is weakened when people tear away at its power by breaking off with a sexual partner and moving on from one to another to another. So when it does finally come time to bond permanently with a spouse, the ability to bond is damaged.
The brain actually gets molded to not accept that deep emotional level that's so important for marriage. When they do marry, they're more likely to have a divorce than people who were virgins when they got married."
Others studies, reported by American Journal of Preventive Medicine, physical and emotional changes in unmarried people who have sex, as well as in married people who have sex outside marriage.
This is not to discount the spiritual changes in these people.
The Bible is relevant concerning the building blocks of a strong, supportive, fulfilling family life, although some have misrepresented what it is teaching through the years. One of those building blocks is entering into the most important human relationship of choice with the ability to commit fully, and much further than you have ever committed to another in your life. Purity before marriage is now seen as a crucial part of that. This is something many will miss out on because the deemed the Bible irrelevant to themselves.
1 Thessalonians 5:18-5:18
1 Kings 3:16-3:28
1 John 2:15-2:17
2 Corinthians 9:12-10:1
ILLUSTRATION… Discipleship Journal, 11-12/92
A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness
5. (Tie) Sexual lust
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when…
they had neglected their time with God (81 percent)
and when they were physically tired (57 percent).
Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising
situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
“THEOLOGY IN THE PEW”
“A large share of people who attend Protestant or Catholic churches have adopted beliefs that conflict with the teachings of the Bible and their church, according to the latest release from the Barna Research Group (www.barna.org).
There are some fundamental Christian precepts that most Americans have held on to:
Three-quarters of all adults believe in the Trinity.
Seventy-nine percent accept that "every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God’s presence or absence."
Seventy-six percent reject the pre-Reformation perspective that "the Bible can only be correctly interpreted by people who have years of intense training in theology."
On other issues, the research found disturbing trends:
Six out of ten Americans (59%) reject the existence of Satan, calling him merely a symbol of evil, a view common among Catholics.
More than one-third (35%) believe that it is "possible to communicate with others after they die."
Forty-two percent believe that, when Jesus was on earth, he committed sins.
Half of all adults arg...
D. Greg Ebie
Your heart will have beat an average of 122,400 times every day. None of us want our heart to ask for a vacation or take a day off; we don’t even want to give it a short “coffee break” to skip a few beats. Doctors understand the heart is critically important to our physical well-being; it is so important doctors have developed the 10 commandments for heart attack prevention.
1. Thou shalt stop smoking.
2. Thou shalt control thy blood pressure.
3. Thou shalt reduce dietary cholesterol.
4. Thou shalt reduce dietary saturated fat.
5. Thou shalt reduce dietary sodium.
6. Thou shalt loose thy apple shaped fat distribution.
7. Thou shalt increase time to relax.
8. Thou shalt increase soluble fiber.
9. Thou shalt eat fish three times a week.
10. Thou shalt increase aerobic exercise.
The same principle holds true in our spiritual lives the condition of our heart impacts every area of our lives. Your heart is not just the physical organ pumping blood throughout your body. The heart is the center of your innermost emotions and feeling; the heart is your soul, the center and essence of life. Just as a body is lifeless without the beating of the heart, so too spiritually without the heart, life stops. THE HEART IS “THE STUFF OF LIFE.”
Teens: Two of the most common life-changing situations reported among Christian teens are stress (64%) and sin (59%). 64% of Christian teens chose to remain sexually abstinent until marriage while 54% chose not to use alcohol or drugs (51%) in ‘02. Those who struggle with abuse or parental conflict are significantly more likely to have used alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. Those struggling with abuse or broken relationships are significantly more likely to be sexually active. Christian teens with a father at home are less likely to struggle with abuse; be depressed as an immediate reaction to life-changing situations; have used alcohol or dated a non-Christian in the past 12 months. 83% of Christian teens feel that declining spiritual values and 79% feel marital problems and divorce are two of the country’s biggest problems. (A Glimpse In To Committed Christian Teens, Research Report, Christianity Today)
Faith Related Internet Use 64% ( 82 million people) of Internet users use it for faith-related reasons. The most popular spiritually-related online activities measured by the Pew Internet & American Life Project:: 38% of the U.S.’s128 million Internet users have sent/received email with spiritual content, 35% sent/received online greeting cards related to religious holidays, 32% to read news accounts of religious events, 21% for how to celebrate religious holidays, 17% for where they could attend services, 14% to plan church meetings, 11% to download or listen to religious music, 7% regarding online prayer requests, 7% to make donations to religious organizations or charities. The report says those who use the Internet for religious or spiritual purposes are more likely to be women, white, middle aged, college educated, and relatively well-to-do. (Pew Internet & American Life Project 4/8/04)
Excellent Congregations: Excellent Protestant Congregations, by Paul Wilkes and published by Westminster John Knox Press identified the following 26 common traits among the "excellent" protestant congregations.
1. A vibrancy about living a Christian life...living on the creative and holy edge of the New Testament...being a Christian is not a leisure activity but an adventure.
2. Entrepreneurial...risk-takers, self-starters, use what works and put aside that which does not.
3. Draws philosophically, rather than geographically or denominationally, by the spirit of a living and present God.
4. Reach beyond their comfort zone...not afraid of being uncomfortable and ask tough questions of themselves.
5. Regularly evaluate themselves...for effectiveness.
6. Have a clear, yet changing, sense of mission...a vision of where they want to be and willingness to redirect energies to be effective in their community and people’s lives.
7. Willingness to break up and reassemble...put aside old structures and coalitions when necessary to move forward.
8. Unafraid of being vulnerable and making mistakes.
9. Laity are integral in leadership...competence and a desire to serve, the ability to learn, the humility to admit mistakes and the courage to continue despite setbacks are more important prerequisites for leadership than formal training and ordination.
10. Preach and practice forgiveness and acceptance.
11. Relationship evangelism...personal contact is the key...most new people come to the church through word of mouth...friend, co-worker and neighbor.
12. See themselves as a unique community...not as a franchise of their denomination or even Christianity.
13. In transforming the culture, hold government, agencies and institutions accountable...see their work as not only serving their constituency but also transforming the world around them.
14. Believe in partnerships with other churches, agencies and interest groups.
15. Offer an ascent to God, a relationship...provide the tools and support to forge a real, living and enduring relationship with God.
16. Traditional without being traditionalist...their tradition is a beginning, a springboard, not a wall, not a barrier.
17. The Bible is at their core.
18. Innovative about different spiritual approaches.
19. Tailor liturgies and programs to various constituencies...reject one-size-fits-all approach.
20. Powerful, life-situation preaching...pa...
Successful Life: 50% of teens believe having an active spiritual life is a “very important” part of having a successful life according to The State of Our Nation’s Youth 2003-2004 by the Horatio Alger Assoc. Other factors teens consider “very important” to success are having a close family relationships (81%); having a close group of friends (69%); and making a contribution to society (48%). (Outreach (1-2/04)
Senior Faith: 37% of women in their 50’s describe themselves as “very religious,” compared to 49% of women in their 70’s. Only 28% of men 50 and older claim to be “very religious.” 37% of women find prayer to be the most gratifying spiritual activity vs. 26% for men. 40% of people ages 45-79 say their most satisfying religious or spiritual experience comes from helping others, 35%--leading a moral life, 28%--spending time with family, 20%--attending religious services. (AARP 11-12/04)