Good Church Member but a Poor Disciple – Trends Toward the End

Long before the end there will be an apostasy (falling away of the faithful) as prophesied in scripture. This end precedes the final end and is what causes nations to finally be labeled as post Christian. Europe is the most notable post Christian nation but America seems to be bringing up the rear at a goodly pace.

I rarely include references to other pages in my articles for several good reasons. But here is one that I believe every Christian in America should go see without a moments delay.

The Barna group was founded by George Barna, a brilliant and highly educated former pollster for the Massachusetts legislature. George Barna is the author of 35 books and has dedicated the full weight of his organization to the study of cultural trends and supplying the means to affect spiritual and moral transformation. Barna conducts polls and research among other things that check the pulse of churches and Christianity in general in the U.S.

The website reveals the state of mind and the very state of affairs of Christianity in America. The Barna website says “The ultimate aim of the firm is to partner with Christian ministries and individuals to be a catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States. It accomplishes these outcomes by providing vision, information, evaluation and resources through a network of intimate partnerships.”

Although they only report their discoveries the result is that Christianity has a serious indictment hurled at it for which the church is wholly culpable. To the serious Christian the reports will provoke a plethora of emotions from sadness to anger. One element rises above the whole picture which is hard to deny and that put simply is, the apostasy has begun.

The word disciple is a derivation of the word discipline. The reports from Barna indicate that most Christians are haphazardly picking up spiritual truths here and there but are anything but discipled.

Even Bible reading and memorizing verses won’t make a disciple of anyone. It takes an implanting of every part of God’s word in the heart and a willingness to obey it and convey it in every aspect of life. King David said it this way, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) This is not what is happening in American Christianity today according to the Barna group reports.

The Barna polls indicate that most American Christians are deriving twenty times more input from media and culture than from their own churches. The efficacy and ongoing influence of the church on the lives of young people the report says, totally ends for most of them when they reach their early twenties.

People who are discipled and see their faith as central to every waking hour of their day are now being referred to as “Christian revolutionaries” by themselves as well as others rather than the commonly known term “born again.” The Barna surveys have discovered that this is quickly becoming the smallest group of Christians in the entire body of Christ. The meaning of Matthew 7:14 has never seemed clearer, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Most pastors would agree that it seems they alone are called upon to be holy and discipled and their congregations are around only to observe, but not to duplicate their example. It is one of the sources of burnout among the clergy. It is the pastor who has to be excited, obedient, visionary and God driven while church members are content to come by at random intervals and see what they might want to pick up as an incidental inspiration from all his discipline.

One thing that can be gleaned from the Barna surveys is that most of the lukewarmness found in the average church member is caused largely by the distractions of media, culture and modern living. Junior has to put in his twelve hour marathon on the X-Box as missy watches TV while chatting on her personal cell phone. Dad has dozens of calls coming in at work and Mom is shuttling kids around with her cell phone in one hand and the other on the wheel. Church? What did the preacher say in last Sunday’s sermon? You may as well ask what kind of birds fly in the mountains of Mongolia.

Ministers may be shocked by the surveys but they also could be very useful for correcting the common problems of the church. It would require a good bit of discernment and honesty for pastors to both admit that these things are in their churches and that they need to deal with it.

The reports are not negative or positive they are simply an accurate measure of Christian behavior across the board. Barna covers such things as the Christian response to the recent remarks of talk show celebrity Rosie O’Donnell on the ABC Networks’ “The View.” Barna says most Christians weren’t even aware that O’Donnell ever made any derogatory remarks about Christians.

Statistics can be boring and dry but an occasional look at the Barna updates can help more than it hurts for most pastors and ministers. Some may be shocked to discover that the best of their efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps this explains why lately more congregations are being referred to as audiences rather than the body of Christ. The reports say in far more detail what the late evangelist Vance Havner was so well known for saying. “The church promises to launch a mighty rocket but only sends up a mere firecracker.”