A CALL TO RE-EXAMINE OUR PREACHING AND TEACHING
By: Frank G. Tunstall
George Barna of the American Culture and Faith Institute released a survey back in May that describes the diversity of doctrinal belief in the born-again community in the American church. Born-again believers largely come under the banner of Evangelical Christians. Pentecostals are also included under this umbrella.
The United States has a population of about 321 million people and one-third of them confess to belong to the family of born-again believers, according to the survey. This translates to almost 100 million people in America.
Barna’s study leaps out at our preachers and teachers, identifying great themes of the faith needing special attention. In this summary, I have chosen ten of these often neglected topics that beg for fresh consideration by our pulpits and classrooms as we preach and teach the word of God. The ten items are quoted and listed in bold type.
- “When you die, you will go to Heaven because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus as your Savior.” Only 30% of the adults in the survey agreed with the statement. This translates that 70%, or about 70,000,000 people in the “born again family” believe people will go to heaven for such other reasons as “they are a good person,” or “God loves all people and will not let you perish,” or because “you have tried to obey the Ten Commandments.” While that figure is frightening, the alarm continues to grow when we realize the study shows 2 out of 5 born-again believers (40%), or 40 million, do not even believe “Satan is alive.” Wow! This area of Bible theology needs major attention.
- “Do you known what will happen after you die?” The survey revealed that of the approximately 100,000,000 born-again believers in the U.S., 25%, or 25,000,000 people do not have a clue “what will happen after they die.” To make this worse, 4% of born-again-ers, or about 4,000,000 people do not believe “Heaven is real,” nor “is Hell,” and that there “is no life after death, physically or spiritually.”
- “Absolute moral truth is contained in the Bible,” was a statement agreed to by 47% of the born-again-ers questioned in the survey. This translates to 47,000,000 people. But we should find it very painful that 53% said they did not believe the Bible is our only source of moral truth. That represents 53,000,000 people who look for moral truth in places other than the Bible, and guarantees that moral relativity is alive and well in the pews of the born-again community of faith.
- God is alive and active in peoples’ lives these days.” (82% – four out of five agree). This means 18,000,000 people in the born again family of faith do not agree that “God is alive and active in peoples’ lives these days.”
- “All people are sinners,” say 79% of born-again believers. This translates as 79,000,000 people who make the confession. But it also indicates some 21,000,000 born-again-ers do not believe “all people are sinners.”
- “Same-sex marriage is inappropriate,” according to 78% of those questioned. Born-again-ers are largely united on this subject. But Barna also found that one out of five, or 22,000,000 people in the born again family think same-sex marriage is acceptable.
- “The Bible is the Word of God and has no errors,” Three-quarters of born-again believers (76%) concur. But this says 24,000,ooo believe the Bible does have errors; hence, for them, the Bible cannot be the error free word of God.
- “God created the universe, as described in the Book of Genesis.” This was agreed to by 66% of born again believers in the survey. It represents about two out of every three born-again-ers in the survey. But this also means 36,000,000 people in the born again family of faith do not believe the creation story in the Bible.
- “While in the earth, Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.” Fifty-two per cent of the “born-again-ers” interviewed agree with the statement, representing 52,000,000 people. But the conclusion leaps out that 48% or 48,000,000 do not agree that Jesus lived a sinless life. It indicates the born again community is split almost 50-50 on this cornerstone teaching of the Bible.
- “The Holy Spirit is alive, not just a symbol of God’s presence.” A total of 43% of the born again believers interviewed held to this teaching (43,000,000 people). But 57% disagreed with the statement, representing 57,000,000 people. Surely Pentecostal believers as a faith community would rate better than this finding. We know the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the earth today. But it is very frightening the numbers of people in the born again family who reject this coctrinal pillar taught by Jesus and His Apostles.
These ten identify key areas of the Gospel message, according to George Barna’s research, that need new and careful attention in our preaching and teaching.
For me personally, I have made the commitment in my preaching, as I am invited to visit churches, to build my sermons around vital Biblical themes like these.
I CHALLENGE our evangelists, pastors and teachers to identify which of these themes you might need to give more attention.
I CHALLENGE the leaders of our conference Schools of Ministry, to make sure your curriculum highlights each of these important themes.
I CHALLENGE our college professors to re-think your syllabi and work at focusing these key areas even more sharply in your teaching.