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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).
I conducted a personal survey for an evangelism course in seminary, examining the ways people come to faith in Christ. The single most influence in leading people to Christ? By far, it was the parents. Behind parents came pastors, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, adults of the church. The influence of the adult members of the church upon our youth cannot be over-emphasized. In the Methodist church, we even have it built into our baptismal rituals. Each time a baby or young child is baptized, we all commit together once again to take an active part in their nurture and spiritual growth.
Have you ever thought seriously about your influence upon others? What would be your highs and lows?
House Church Growth: A new Barna Group study finds 9% of U.S. adults attend a house church during a typical week, vs. 1% in ‘96. 10% report attending a house church at least once a month. It is estimated more than 70 million adults have at least experimented with a house church. The survey revealed that of those who attend a house church, 27% attend weekly, 30% 1-3 times per month, and 43% less than once a month. Church attendance patterns are being reshaped. Among those who attend a church of any type, 74% attend only a conventional church while 5% attend only a house church. Another 19% attend both and 2% attend a small group that is neither. Interestingly, men are more likely to attend a house church than women. George Barna states,. “Analysts typically find that once a new tool or institution reaches 15% market penetration, and has evidenced a consistent or growing level of affirmation for at least 6 years, that entity shifts from fad to trend status. At that point, it becomes a permanent fixture in our society.” Continued growth and public awareness will firmly establish the house church as a significant means of faith experience and expression among Americans. A new body of spiritual resources is being developed and utilized by the expanding house church community. House church adherents make greater use of Christian radio, Christian books, and online faith experiences than do people engaged solely in a conventional church. (Barna Update 6/19/06)
New Barna Research has discovered that a person’s lifelong behaviors and views are generally developed when they are young – usually prior to reaching teen years. The research showed 4 critical outcomes. First, a person’s moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach 9. Their fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics are formed early in life. Second, responses to the meaning and personal value of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is usually determined before age 18. Third, most spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed by the pre-teens. “In essence,” George Barna notes, “what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing.”
Finally, the research revealed adult church leaders usually have serious involvement in church life and training when they are young. Churches ex...
1. George Barna notes, “In the 1970’s “seeker churches’ made a strong theoretical argument for the importance of encouraging people to feel no obligation to toe a Bible to church. Their goal was to make visitors feel welcome and comfortable by alleviating the need to locate a Bible, by diminishing the stressful expectation that they will have to use that Bible during the church service, and by softening the negative image that may be associated with a Bible-toting congregation. Two decades later, it is clear that this experiment had a more sinister consequence; people don’t even know where their Bibles are anymore! In many churches, the core membership-not just the visitors for whom the tactic was originally embraced-began to lose its familiarity with the Bible. There has been a trade off; changing the rules to help some has impaired the spiritual health of others. Sadly, the shift away from promoting the personal responsibility to bring along a Bible has sent a signal to many people that the Bible is not important. As the church has abandoned the Bible, knowledge of scriptural content has declined, personal Bible reading has declined, the image of the Bible as sacred literature has declined, and the ability of people to comprehend biblical principles has declined. In fact, when it comes time to discuss what the church ought to be, biblical exhortations do not even enter the discussion” (The Second Coming of the Church, 26, 27).
i. Barna notes “Our most recent surveys indicate that about half of all adults listen to preaching or Bible teaching in a typical week; one out of three read the Bible; one out of ten study the Bible during the week; fewer than one out of every twenty-five devote themselves to memorizing at least one new Bible verse during a typical week. Less than 2 percent are committed to all four of these practices on a weekly basis. It’s no wonder that Americans have tremendous spiritual hunger, but no consistent spiritual growth” (135).
Spiritual Values in Collegians A UCLA study found college juniors are more likely to be engaged in a spiritual quest compared to when they first entered college as freshmen. The study showed 41.2% of freshmen in ’04 reported they considered developing a meaningful philosophy of life “very important” or “essential.” 3 years later in ’07, 55.4% agreed. 48.7% of freshmen in ’04 said “attaining inner harmony” is “very important” or “essential.” This jumped to 62.6% by ’07. This suggests college is influencing students in positive ways that will better prepare them for leadership roles in our global society. The rise in spirituality also comes as more students feel depressed, overwhelmed by everything they have to do, and feel that their college life is filled with stress and anxiety. The study found growth over the 3 years in spiritual values, such as integrating spirituality into their lives and becoming more loving person.s Also, more juniors reported wanting to reduce pain and suffering in the world, being thankful for all that has happened to them, and higher levels of ecumenical worldview. As juniors they are more likely to agree that “non-religious people can lead lives that are just as moral as those of religious believers.” Despite the rise in spirituality, college students are not making it to religious services. While 38.6% attend services less frequently, only 7% increase their frequency after entering college. Attendance drops from 43.7% in high school to 25.4% in college, and the rate of non-attendance nearly doubles. (Christian Post 12/20/07)
Four Key Reasons kids become more committed to Christ. (1) Parents: 36% of youth report parents are their top influence (or at least 2nd or 3rd influence) when it comes to helping them grow in Christ. (2) Struggles: 1 in 7 kids claim a difficult struggle stimulated spiritual growth. Another 10% identified crises as catalysts. Youth need strong, Christian adults who will help them face their life struggles and crises. (3) Friends: Almost 14% of youth point to friendships that encouraged them to grow deeper in their Christian commitment. Another 19.6% say friends are “their #2 or #3 growth influencer.” Parents often have a more powerful influence on teens’ fundamental values, but friends dictate how those values will be lived out. (4) A Leader: Youth point to a youth pastor or other adult leader as impor...
The Church & Education: The average Protestant church offers classes, or education on 4.6 different topics in a typical year. The most common topics taught are for new members (60%) followed by basics of Christianity (47%) how to study the Bible (43%), evangelism (39%), spiritual growth/renewal (37%) and effective prayer (35%). (Facts & Trends 11-12/05)
Women Dominate Christian Ranks: Barna Research reports that 46% of the nation’s women have beliefs that classify them as born again, versus 36% of men, meaning there are 11 to 13 million more born again women than men in the U.S. This helps explain why women account for nearly 80% of all Christian product purchases. George Barna observes, “the apparent lack of spiritual leadership exhibited by Christian men has significantly hampered spiritual growth of 10 of thousands of well meaning but spiritually inert families.” (Pastor’s Weekly Briefing 3/24/00)