March 24, 2001
AMERICA SPIRITUALLY STAGNANT?
''spiritually stagnant'' according to pollster George Barna.
Over the last
five years, there has been a five point increase in the percentage of
adults who say they are ''absolutely committed'' to the Christian faith,
and simultaneously, a five point drop in the proportion who had attended
church in the last seven days, Barna reports.
Since 1991, the
percentage who say they read the Bible in the past week fell from 45 to
37 percent, church attendance dropped from 49 to 42 percent.
Volunteering at church is down from 27 to 20 percent and adult Sunday
school attendance is down from 23 to 19 percent.
Yet the number
of Americans who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus
Christ which is still important in their lives and who believe they will
go to heaven because they had confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as
their savior - rose from 35 percent of the nation in 1991 to 41 percent
in 2001. These people are usually called ''born again.''
How can there be
a rising commitment to Christianity with declining church attendance,
volunteering and Bible study?
Hypocrisy is one
answer. ''Spiritual stagnation'' may be a more apt explanation.
Four out of ten
born again Christians do not attend church or read the Bible in a
typical week and there are ten million people who have accepted Jesus
but don't worship Him in church.
There are major
differences in religious behavior between Catholics and Protestants.
While similar numbers attend church on Sunday, 47 percent of Protestants
say they read the Bible while only 25 percent of Catholics do so.
Protestants are much more likely to attend adult Sunday school (28
percent vs 3 percent), to participate in a small group (22 vs. 9
percent), or volunteer at their church (25 to 15 percent).
reports more than one-third of Protestant church-goers are not born
again. ''Most of those people have been attending Christian churches for
years and years, without really understanding the foundations of the
Christian faith and its personal implications,'' he says.
certainly did not experience the spiritual revival that many Christians
prayed for,'' said the pollster. ''Christian ministry is stuck in a deep
rut. Our research continues to point out the need for behavioral
modeling, strategic ministry, and a more urgent reliance upon God to
change people's lives.''
that ''Too many Christians and churches in America have traded in
spiritual passion for empty rituals, clever methods and mindless
practices. The challenge to today's Church is not methodological. It is
a challenge to resuscitate the spiritual passion and fervor of the
I am not wholly
convinced by this analysis. People in the South are more likely to
report being absolutely committed to Christ, to reading the Bible,
attending Sunday School and being born again. But they are also more
likely to divorce their husbands and wives.
The states with
the lowest divorce rates are in the Catholic Northeast while twice as
many divorce in the Bible Belt states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama
and Oklahoma. In half of Oklahoma's counties, there are more divorces
What good is it
to say one accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior, if one is
unwilling to exhibit selflessness and commitment toward a husband, wife
What is the
I would like to
hear more practical sermons. I don't care if I never hear another sermon
about Abraham. Once I sat through a 20-part series on Abraham. I'm ready
to let the old man's bones rest. But I've rarely heard sermons on how we
are to love our spouses and children.
Jesus said we
are to ''love our neighbor as ourselves.'' Who is a closer neighbor than
a husband, wife or children?
What are we to
say to our adult children who are living with someone of the opposite
In America 4.2
million adults are cohabiting at any moment of time. Over a year's time,
probably six or seven million people are shacking up. It is the dominant
way male-female unions are now formed in the United States.
Yet only 2.3
million couples marry a year, and more than half are cohabiting at the
of Wisconsin reports that those who marry after cohabiting are 50
percent more likely to divorce than those who never lived together. St.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:18 that we are to ''flee fornication.''
Surely, cohabitation is fornication squared.
Yet have you
ever heard a sermon on cohabitation?
Copyright 2001 Michael J.