A new survey shows that the majority of Americans no longer believe that Jesus is the path to salvation and instead believe that being a good person is sufficient.
As part of the ongoing release of the Arizona Christian University-based Cultural Research Center’s American Worldview Inventory, the latest findings — exploring perceptions of sin and salvation — from George Barna, the group’s director, show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that having some kind of faith is more important than the particular faith with which someone aligns.
Sixty-eight percent who embrace that notion identify as Christians, including 56% of self-described evangelicals and 62% of those who identify as Pentecostals. Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants and 77% of Catholics also embraced that idea, the findings show.
Slightly over half of Christian respondents said they believe someone can attain salvation by “being or doing good,” a figure that includes, 46% of Pentecostals, 44% of mainline Protestants, 41% of evangelicals, and 70% of Catholics.
In addition to the viewpoint that eternal salvation can be earned, survey results show that 58% of Americans believe that no absolute moral truth exists and that the basis of truth are factors or sources other than God. Seventy-seven percent said that right and wrong is determined by factors other than the Bible. Fifty-nine percent said that the Bible is not God’s authoritative and true Word and 69% said people are basically good.
Most people contend that all faiths are of equal value, that entry into God’s eternal presence is determined by one’s personal means of choice and that there are no absolutes to guide or grow us morally.
The philosophy of life now held by most Americans contradicts a fundamental basis of what may be the two most significant documents to the longevity and success of America – the Bible and the Constitution of the United States.
Those documents agree that this nation will only be healthy and fruitful if it is populated by moral people. By abandoning their moral standards and traditions, and replacing them with inclusive and conditional preferences, they are losing the foundations that have enabled the ‘American experiment’ to succeed for more than two centuries. We can only hope that their critical moral institutions — particularly the family and the church — will wake up and help the nation to get back on track.
The mark of a fully-devoted disciple is a disciple who is making other disciples, a disciple who is bringing others to the faith either through personal evangelism or bringing others with them to church to introduce them to Jesus. Evangelism is the greatest form of discipleship.
If we in our churches are not creating disciples who regularly create other disciples, we are not succeeding in the Great Commission. Christ called us all to share the good news of eternal life that He made possible through His death and resurrection. If we are not making disciples then what are we doing at church, hopefully not making Couch Potato Christians who sit and soak rather than serve and send. If you want to see who the fully-devoted disciples of Jesus Christ are, don’t necessarily go to the biggest churches or find the Christians with the most seminary degrees or the ones who are the most confident (i.e. arrogant) about their doctrine. Find disciples who are making other disciples. Evangelism is the greatest form of discipleship.
Nickey Gumbel, vicar (pastor) at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, recently recorded a podcast with Canadian Pastor and thought leader Carey Nieuwhof. Gumbel developed the world-famous Alpha Courses and has decades of experience with in-person small groups. Like so many, he never considered online groups as a viable option and only transitioned his church’s small groups to online when forced by the coronavirus pandemic. A few short months later, he is a true believer in online groups and their advantages. You can listen to the whole podcast here. (He starts talking about online groups around 29:55).
According to Gumbel, here are nine ways that online groups are actually better than in-person groups:
1. Everyone is more relaxed. Think about it: instead of walking into a strange environment, everyone is sitting in their favorite chair at home, they’ve got their coffee or tea (or whatever) fixed just the way they want, and they’re in their comfortable clothes. All of this puts a person at ease, leading to better discussion.
2. Everyone is in their own home. For most, home is a place of solace, and it’s much more inviting to join a group while at home. Some actually have a reluctance to walk into a church building or someone else’s home, so this can be an incredible advantage.
3. Travel time is cut down. This isn’t as big of an issue in smaller towns where distances are reduced, but in larger urban environments, travel time can be a groups killer. For instance, the average commute time where I live (Northern Virginia) is about an hour each way. Adding another meeting with travel time on top of that can be a huge hindrance. Online groups eliminates the travel time.
4. The total meeting time is shortened and cost reduced. Because travel time is eliminated, the total meeting time is shortened, making it easier for people to commit to a group. Cost of Zoom for each group, max $20 a month.
5. Childcare becomes so much easier. Unless your small group meets on Sunday morning at church when children’s activities are going on, childcare for young families can be a deal breaker for in-person groups. Gumbel shared about a single mom that was able to join an online group precisely because it was online and she didn’t have to try and arrange childcare for her kids.
6. The conversation flows better because everyone knows each other’s names. Even in groups that have met for awhile, people aren’t confident that they know everyone’s names. This can lead to reduced interaction out of fear of getting someone’s name wrong. When you’re on an online group meeting like Zoom, everyone’s name appears by their screen. As simple as that sounds, this is actually a big deal. Everyone knows everyone’s name!
7. There’s an easier out if you don’t like the group. People like to have an exit strategy before they try something new (like a small group). Think about the hurdles facing someone debating whether or not to try out a small group for the first time: they’re walking into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. If they don’t like the group, they’re stuck there at least for the rest of the meeting, longer if they feel a social obligation to continue. With online meetings, there’s an easier out: just get off the call. This easier out actually incentivizes people to try something new.
8. People tend to be more open online than in person. Call this the social media effect. Have you ever noticed how people tend to share more openly (even when they shouldn’t) online? It’s as if the screen gives them a sense of transparency where they can share how they really feel. This works for online small groups as well. Gumbel shared in his podcast interview that after leading in-person groups for decades, he was shocked at just how quickly his new online group shared and how quickly they went deep.
9. Group dropout rates are reduced. A final positive aspect that Gumbel noted was that in his short time leading online groups, the dropout rates seem to have reduced. In any in-person group you start, the number you start with is hardly ever the number you finish with. It’s too easy for people to talk themselves out of getting dressed up, getting back in their car after a long day’s work to go to small group. If you’re not feeling well, if you’re got a lot to do, if childcare falls through (or any number of other things), you miss the group. With an online group, people tend to stick longer, leading to reduced dropout rates.
Article by Josh Daffern in Patheos (www.patheos.com) 9 Reasons Why Online Groups May Actually Be Better than In-Person Small Groups.
God is in control of all events in His world. Covid 19 did not take Him by surprise so we need to ask what is God doing and how can we get in step with Him. We are meant to be overcomers and game changers. We know that in the last days, church will be as it was in the Book of Acts, all believers involved in the Great Commission. As Nickey Gumbel has found Zoom Home Group meetings work so let us learn from his experience.
God is using Michael Todd big time, but Michael has no allusions that he is the one doing it and he rightly gives the glory to God.
Todd says he has no illusions that his church’s success can be attributed to savvy marketing, great technological design or his own inspired preaching. In fact, he says his entire testimony served as a test of obedience: Was he willing to obey God even when it didn’t make sense or match his own life plans?
His involvement at his parents’ small house church began after his mother called him on the phone and informed him, “God told me you’re supposed to do something with the youth of this church.” Todd tried to politely refuse—even suggesting that maybe she had misheard God, who meant to use one of her other sons. After all, Todd had never preached or taught from the Bible. But his mom would not be swayed. The next week, Todd became the youth pastor of his parents’ church. There were only seven youth present: three of his brothers, three god brothers and god sister, and one other person. (The church itself had only 15 members.) Todd called the ministry “SO FLY,” an acronym for “Sold Out Free Life Youth.”
“I had never prepared a message or done anything like that,” Todd says. “But God told me four things before I walked in there. He said, ‘Be real. Tell on yourself. Don’t judge them. And love them first.’ And that was my instructional guide into ministry.”
Six months later, Todd says SO FLY had 150 young adults attending weekly. SO FLY had no flashy sound system or game systems. The youth group was 150 young people “literally in a room in a circle,” Todd says.
Today, he recognizes it was a spiritual phenomenon, it was real church, but at the time, he says he didn’t take it that seriously. He didn’t even study or prepare message notes; he just showed up every week planning to share what was going on in his life, talk about the Bible and try to relate to the kids. He says he focused on the four tenets God taught him before his first night of SO FLY. That meant confessing his own sins to the group at times—including pornography addiction and emotional manipulation—and sharing how Jesus personally transformed him every day. He believes that raw, uncomfortable honesty is the real reason young people responded to him.
“I think people are drawn to authenticity,” Todd says. “We have a saying around here: ‘It’s not about perfection; it’s about progression.’ So that gives people license to mess up and be like, ‘It’s my bad. I messed up, but I’m going to get better.’ And I think hearing that from somebody who holds the office of a pastor—when most pastors [project perfection]—is just refreshing to people. … How many pastors or small group leaders actually confess what they’ve done—not in an ethereal story or in an ‘I know a guy’ story? That’s how the Bible tells us we overcome. Yes, it’s by the blood of the Lamb—that’s what God did and what Jesus did on the cross—but then by the words of our testimony. And I think that’s what’s missing today.”
You will need to listen to the Podcast to learn how one of Todd’s sermons got posted on YouTube and went viral. It was certainly not Michael’s’ doing.
Michael now has a huge following on the Internet and it is interesting to read what he has to say about its use by God.
“The first thing you have to know is the internet has changed everything,” Todd says. “And [in some ways], the last thing it has touched is the church—because we want to keep our traditions. I really do believe the Great Commission is to go into all the world and make disciples, but I don’t think we could have done that in a healthy way until now, with the internet. There’s no way I could be a good father and a good husband and all this other stuff, and also go into the world and make disciples. Even if you’re [focusing] only on your house and your neighborhood, that’s still a huge undertaking. But I believe God’s given us the internet … for great good.”
Todd has chosen to obey—and God blessed his ministry beyond his wildest expectations. He spoke to Charisma about his testimony, why the next generation has latched onto his approach to preaching the gospel and how pastoral responsibilities are shifting in the internet age.
Todd never wanted to be a pastor. In fact, as a teenager, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to be a Christian. Though he grew up in a Christian home, he says he never had an authentic relationship with God until his late teenage years. Before then, he says he was primarily raised and discipled by BET and MTV. The church didn’t have answers for the problems he and his peers were going through.
“I messed up so much because I didn’t have an example,” Todd says. “The only rule we were given was, ‘Don’t have sex before you get married.’ Well, what happens when you’ve done that? What happens when the locker room introduced you to pornography? … The church has been so silent about that. In recent years, they’ve started talking about it, but even then, the church is so PG when our middle school locker rooms are R-rated and X-rated. … So what ends up happening is we’re trying to spend the rest of our lives undoing what was presented first.”
That feeling of being failed by the church as a teenager is part of why Todd says he’s so passionate about helping teenagers and young adults today. He says he wishes he’d had a relatable, young mentor like himself when he was struggling with his faith.
You can connect with Steve Strang’s Charisma Media’s podcast with Michael Todd by clicking on the link below.
Most of you know what I believe God has already revealed to us in His Word about church. He initially set it up as described in the Book of Acts. Church was held in homes and small groups which is ideal for making disciples who in turn will make disciples. This is how church will be, once again, in the coming tribulation prior to Jesus return.
Phil Miglioratti • The #ReimagineFORUM Pray Network has provided a useful guide for church leaders to use post Covid19.
This guide is all about what God calls the church to do: disciple its members and impact its community with the Gospel.
Resist the temptation to merely reopen your church. Instead, reimaginehow a church lives out faith, hope, and love in the shadow of a pandemic. Invite the Holy Spirit to take you (pastors, lead teams, affinity groups, congregations) on a journey of rethinking by:
Assessing how the new normal impacts the calling and gifting of your congregation
Blessing your constituents but also the diverse peoples in your community
Confessing your fear and declaring your faith to move into the future
Make a fearless assessment of the new normal.
Have we made meaningful connections with every member? Attender?
Have we developed systems to identify practical needs of our families? Our community?
Are we identifying the degree of difficulty each person/family has experienced?
Have we surveyed our membership to know how to serve their:
Gather (virtual, if not safe to meet in person) leadership to prayerfully discern:
Strengths – what new capabilities have we discovered in our people?
Weaknesses – in what ways has our ministry capacity decreased?
Opportunities – which needs or new options are we facing?
Resources – what undiscovered, unexpected resources have surfaced?
Risks/Rewards – have we counted the cost of making changes? Doing nothing?
Begin to daily ask for the mind of Christ so that you (personally but also with congregational ministers) discern how to reimagine how to develop:
Enthusiastic (“in; theos/God”) fellowship
Pursue a Spirit-led, Scripture-fed journey. God always wants to move you on to a new level of service. Therefore, it should lead you to begin a new chapter of ministry. Your congregation or team may be called upon to make a radical change or to re-calibrate systems or reorient programs. Focus on Jesus. Fear less. Fear wisely. Follow Jesus… to the places where Almighty God is already at work; He is inviting you to serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. As you step out miracles will follow.
What are the cultural realities that are crippling the church?
1. Not Holy Spirit led. It is rare to see anything like what you read about in the book of Acts happen in churches today. When’s the last time the Holy Spirit has moved among the people of your church? If you can’t point to something, that may be a sign of a powerless (Acts 1:8) church.
2.Not serving their community. Simply protesting against sin in the world without proactively working for good causes in the community creates a negative impression in the minds of those who drive past your church on Sundays. Also, consumerism has most definitely infected the church and it is reflected in how praise and worship is conducted. When you have Christians (no matter their age) content to sit and attend services (no matter the type) while refusing to stand up and serve others, you have an irrelevant church.
3.Bible knowledge alone equals spiritual maturity. Bible knowledge is foundational to spiritual maturity, but it does not in and of itself equal spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity comes with obedience and love towards others. Paul warned about this in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”
4. No John 17 unity. Jesus himself prayed (John 17:23) that his followers would be one, so that the world may know that we are his disciples. The early church brought men and women, Greeks and Jews, slaves and free, all together under the name of Jesus. Do we see that same unity today, or is the church divided along racial, political, theological and socio-economic lines?
Regardless, God is still on His throne. Jesus is still building his church. The Holy Spirit continues to do his work. My prayer is that the church will start being part of the solution.
Powerful Christians live accordingly, not content simply to invite people to church or stop at “telling their story”. They understand that bringing people to Christ involves taking personal responsibility for all 3 – praying, caring and sharing.
The Importance of a Disciple-Making Movement (DMM) – Communities of Disciples.
Paul was able to win the city not by joining a political party, but by making disciples and releasing these disciples to turn the world upside down.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47
There was a healthy fear of the Lord in the community after the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.
Paul did not attempt to plant mere churches, but founded communities of disciples—which formed a kingdom ekklesia which can turn a city upside down!
They were not event-driven, but process-driven.
In his epistle, Paul wrote to explain to the Ephesian church (about four years after Acts 19) how they transformed Asia Minor and wrote in chapter 4 that the ekklesia is equipped by the five fold ministry to become a mature man—as the expression of the fullness of Christ and corporate son—who will manifest the government of God increasingly on the earth.
In Ephesians 4:12 we see both an inward and outward focus: one is missional and the other is focused on building the body of Christ.
The missional purpose of the apostles was to equip the saints to minister in every aspect of culture, according to Genesis 1:28, as His ekklesia, so the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The focus to edify the church is seen in Ephesians 4:12-16 when it speaks about the church growing into the fullness of the stature of Jesus. This passage shows what the ultimate goal of discipleship is: to be like Jesus as a corporate community (a nation within nations that disciples every people group and subculture).
Consequently, to the extent the kingdom ekklesia looks and acts like Jesus, it will have governmental authority and influence because the government is on His shoulders and because it was He who defeated the powers of darkness!
Isaiah 9:6-7 says: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 says: “He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
As His corporate body, He called us to manifest His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven according to Luke 11:2. Moreover, Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the third person of the Trinity to be our Counsellor, Teacher and Comforter and therefore enable us to do the job He has called us to do. The Holy Spirit enables us to overcome the powers of darkness and manifest the fruit of the Spirit and operate in the gifts of the Spirit.
To those who have an ear to hear and a heart to understand, let me leave you with this quote from Rene Bates book God’s Glory: And the Exhortation: “What we begin to see now is the deathwatch of the gloomy, deceptive, organised religious system. It gave birth to nothing but a dearth of life, religious institutes (mistakenly called churches), and canons of human pride, turning many toward insincere piety. May the Lord Jesus Christ forever be praised within your hearts as He delivers us from the people-pleasing business.”