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The church is a lot like a school

School Church

students laity

faculty ministers

Or, maybe the church is more like a corporation

Corporation Church

articles of incorporation constitution

boards deacons

shareholders meetings & conventions business meetings & conventions

mergers ecumenism

strive for market share church growth movement

emphasize customer service emphasize seeker sensitivity

search for CEO’s search for pastor’s in much the same way

giant corporations putting small mega-churches

businesses out of business with

greater selection and value

And while corporations are enjoying great prosperity, the story for the church is quite different:

A new study released by the Barna Research Group shows that while substantial changes have occurred in people’s values and lifestyles during the Nineties, commitment to Christianity has remained relatively unchanged during the decade. Although individual measures of Christian belief and practice have undergone significant change during the past nine years, the net effect has been one of stability.

Using a scale that evaluates the commitment of American adults to Christianity on the basis of 18 factors ñ eight faith practices and ten beliefs ñ the research shows that there has been relatively little change during this decade, and the limited change that has occurred indicates a deterioration of commitment. The data demonstrate that the bulk of the decline in Christian commitment has been in faith practices, not in beliefs. The largest drops in activity from 1991 to 1999 were experienced regarding worship service attendance, Bible reading and prayer. The only beliefs from among the ten tested that experienced similarly significant declines during the same period were the notion that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches and people’s understanding of who God is.

The research shows that the population at-large rejects many beliefs that are embraced by evangelical Christians. For instance, most Americans do not believe in salvation by grace, alone; that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches; that they have a personal responsibility for evangelism; that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; or that Satan is a real being who can influence people’s lives.

In a similar vein, the data show that a minority of Americans engage in practices such as attending church services in a typical week; reading the Bible; attending a Sunday school class; participating in a small group or cell group; or volunteering to help their church.

George Barna, president of the research firm that released the study, pointed out some of the paradoxes highlighted by the statistics. "Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the true spiritual character of our nation. More than four out of five adults call themselves ’Christian,’ but these figures raise questions about what that term means for many people. Seven out of ten adults say they are ’religious,’ but that term covers a lot of territory. Clearly, being religious is not synonymous with being a committed Christian. Those who suggest that Americans are becoming more conservative, more traditional and more religious should recognize that these data describe a nation that is not becoming more biblically-informed, more spiritually mature or more authentically Christian."

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