The American church is quickly “morphing into something new.” This is the conclusion the Barna group drew after analyzing 5,000 interviews conducted in 2010 and identifying the following 6 patterns or “megathemes” from the research. (HT Charles Savelle)
- The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
- Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
- Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
- Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
- The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
- The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
Although I think the research done by the Barna Group is always worth noting, I do worry that their interpretation of the data tends to skew in a notably negative/pessimistic direction. As Bradley Wright argues in his book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, we need to be much more careful with how we use statistical analysis to draw conclusions about the health of God’s people. So, we may need a more nuanced look at some of these megathemes (particularly the last one).
I’d also like a little more explanation of what it means to say that the church is both “more ingrown” and more “interested in participating in community action” at the same time. Or, how the church can have a greater role in community action and yet still have a largely invisible impact on society. That’s an interesting juxtaposition of themes.
And, I’m a bit surprised by #2. Based solely on the churches that I’m involved with, I would have said that there’s a growing trend toward greater outreach (mainly “soft” evangelism and community action). But, that could be just my limited exposure to the church as a whole.
Nonetheless, these themes are worth reflecting on and clearly identify a number of “systemic” issues that we need to wrestle with today.
Here’s an interesting discussion between Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, and Mark Dever on multi-site churches. Driscoll and MacDonald, both multi-site pastors, obviously argue in favor of that strategy and try to convince Dever, not a multi-site guy, that this is a good way to go. And, Dever responds with some good questions of his own.
Despite the outpouring of support for the previous title “Flotsam and jetsam” (yes, in my world four comments qualifies as an “outpouring”), I’m going to stick with a simpler title for a while and see how it works.
- Here’s a video clip of N.T. Wright on whether biblical theology requires us to see Adam as an historical person.
- This year’s list of the Top 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches has (again) raised questions about its validity and what its implicitly suggesting about the church.
- HuffPo has an interesting post on the history of the “flat earth dogma”, arguing that it was an invention of several 19th century thinkers who used it to portray Christianity as anti-science.
- Daily Writing Tips offers a list of 12 Greek Words any good writer should know. (I’ll confess that I can’t hear #11 without thinking The Three Amigos.)
- C. Michael Patton steps up in defense of Rick Warren, using Warren’s tweets (of all things) to support the quality of his ministry.
- Bill Mounce posts some reflections on his experience with the NIV translation committee and what it means to make a good translation.
- And, here’s an article contending that using Apple products makes you a better Christian. HT
- Jim West points out Ligionier Academy and R.C. Sproul are beginning their own undergraduate Bible college. Because what the country desperately needs right now is yet another new Bible college. Jim also points out Israel Finklestein’s web site with lots of good resources in archeology and ANE studies.
- James McGrath has finished his review of The Historical Jesus: Five Views, and has posted a roundup of all his comments.
- A new blog, Wondering Fair, has a post by Dave Benson on using ballroom dancing and perichoresis as an analogy for gender relations.
- Theolog points out a recent Jon Stewart monologue discussing our cultural resistance to a growing Muslim presence.
- According to a new study, the “healthist”, “thriving” churches (measured by attendance, growth, and engagement) are likely to have “a high number of small groups, effective lay leadership, faithful pastors, and both traditional and contemporary services.