Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Conviction Crisis

“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)
“For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord
Jesus.” (Acts 21:13-14)
Jesus and Paul demonstrated their deep conviction and devotion to God by their willingness to suffer and die to do the will of God. Many early Christians like Stephen and James gave their lives for the cause of Christ. One wonders if American Christians today would sacrifice their lives for the Lord.

According to the U.S. Religious Landmark Survey published last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there are a number of puzzles about religious convictions in America and in the churches of Christ.

While 98% of members of churches of Christ and 88% of all Americans are certain or fairly certain of God’s existence, while 96% of members of churches of Christ and 82% of all Americans say their faith is very or somewhat important to them, and while 94% of members of churches of Christ and 81% of all Americans prayed to God at least a few times this month, far fewer showed strong convictions in their beliefs and practice. For instance, only 73% of members of the churches of Christ attended church at least once in the last month (compared to 54% of all Americans).

Only 39% of members of the church of Christ would say their religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life, while 56% said many religions lead to eternal life. I read this fact broken-hearted. Do brethren doubt what Jesus said in John 14:6 and what Peter said in Acts 4:12? Are there not one gospel, one body, one faith, and one baptism?

Among members of the church of Christ 35 percent felt abortion should be legal in all or most cases (compared to 51% of all Americans). Among churches of Christ 31 percent felt homosexuality should be accepted (compared to 50% of all Americans). Why this lack of conviction? Why does our profession of faith in Christ not also pertain to beliefs and practice?

Among all Americans only 29% rely mainly on their religious beliefs for guidance regarding right and wrong. Most trust their personal experiences. Why do people inside and outside the church compromise their convictions? They do so because they are listening to man and the culture but not to God.

We need conviction if we are to pass our faith on to the next generation. We can no longer sit silently while the world succeeds in the decay of our faith and morals. Let us speak up for the Lord with love. Let’s help people to see that God’s way is the right way and the best way. Let’s not let a crisis of compromised convictions destroy us.

Phil.

7 comments:

Terry said...

Very well said.

Jim said...

Phil, what I am noticing is a complete compartmentalization on the part of church members. I see comments made on blogs and hear them in conversation that go something like this, "As a Christian, I believe X, but as an American, I am in favor of Y." Usually this has something to do with a moral issue that is prevalent in political conversation.

I am amazed that people do not seem to have any trouble compartmentalizing their faith off from the rest of their world. Of course, we are all guilty of not practicing what we preach, but I am sensing something more than that. I am seeing a total comfort with having a church ethic, a political ethic, a job ethic, an entertainment ethic, etc. and seemingly no trouble in separating them.

Maybe I'm just too simple minded, but I believe your ideas of right and wrong that are motivated by your faith in Jesus Christ and his revelation should inform the decisions you make on the job, in the theater, in front of the television, in the voting booth, and everywhere.

I suppose what has me going on about this is so much of the talk I am seeing these days coming from church members who are enthused politically about Senator Barak Obama, but seem to have adjusted their views of sexual morality based on the candidate's stand on homosexual marriage.

This will be an upcoming "conviction crisis" for us in churches of Christ. Indeed, as unbelievable as it may seem, we are already there in some churches.

Terry said...

Phil,
I was looking at the Pew Forum's web site this morning, but I was having a difficult time finding the specific statistics for the Churches of Christ. Could you provide a link? I would like to know more about what our fellow members believe about other issues and topics, if those answers are available online.

Phil Sanders said...

Terry,
the information I gave is found in the second half of the 276-page report found at the PewForum.org website. The latter pages provide statistical detail on the various religious groups surveyed. The churches of Christ (Restoration evangelical)are listed separately in those later pages. You must indeed hunt a little, but they are there.

Phil

Terry said...

Thanks, Phil!

Ben Wiles said...

Phil,

What wasmost amazing to me about the Pew Research numbers was the sheer volume of poeple claiming to be members of churches of Christ. 1.5% of the people responding to the survey claimed to be church members. Extrapolate that over the total American population, and you get 4.5 million people.

Compare that with the latest Mac Lynn numbers, which put total membership around 1.3 million, and "adherants" between 1.7 and 1.8 million.

So either a) something is seriously wrong with Pew's data collection methods, or b) 60-65% of Americans who claim to be part of a "Church of Christ" have no connection whatsoever with any congregation.

I know which I hope is true, but I have my suspicions.

Phil Sanders said...

Ben,
I too was shocked by the 1.5% estimation of the 35,000 surveyed. The actual number of people who claimed to be members of the church was around 600 people.

Gallup and US Census figures have put us in the 2,500,000 range for some time. The 2004 ARIS survey also had a high number for us.

My opinion is that we have a lot of floaters and no-shows out there who attend sporadically or not at all. I estimate that we have somewhere around 800,000 non-attending members who do not affiliate with anyone else.

This is frankly a bit of the agenda I have for the television program, God's Answers, to get non-attending people back involved.

Phil