Questions: From where do you know your sins and misery?
Christianity Today has just posted an article on Willow Creek’s Reveal. Willow Creek has put together a study to see how effective their respective ministries were in helping people grow spiritually.
Below is an excerpt from CT:
In Reveal, talk about the church is framed as if it were merely a distribution point for spiritual goods and services. For example, the study says that the dissatisfied, more than any other segment, have a much higher level of expectation “for what the church can and should deliver.” Furthermore, the dissatisfied say that when it comes to engendering personal spiritual growth, “the church is letting me down.”
The study’s answer suggests a disturbingly low view of the church: It concludes that the dissatisfied need to realize that “much of the responsibility for their spiritual growth belongs to them” (emphasis in the original). And “We [at Willow] have to let people know early on in their journey that they need to look beyond the church to grow” (emphasis added).
But according to the apostle Paul, the church is where each one is given a gift “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12–13).
For Paul, solid spiritual growth cannot be found “beyond the church,” but only in its midst. The study rightly says, “Our people need to learn to feed themselves through personal spiritual practices.” Unfortunately, the study fails to hint that these spiritual disciplines are intrinsically grounded in the ongoing life of the church. This implicit dualism (between private and corporate spiritual growth) suggests something different from Paul’s view that it is in the body of Christ that we are joined together to “grow up into him who is the Head” (Eph. 4:15).
Jonathan Leeman has posted some of his thoughts on the study at 9 Marks. Click here for his conclusion.
For further interest see: Willow Creek Repents?
Pew Forum on Religion recently released an interesting study on Americans and the switching from religious affiliation to another. I ran into this article through MSNBC. I am always a little leary when it comes to statistics although I must admit this is an interesting study….
Below is an excerpt:
“The study released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is unusual for its sheer scope, relying on interviews with more than 35,000 adults to document a diverse and dynamic U.S. religious population.
While much of the study confirms earlier findings — mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing — it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller religious groups.”
“The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.
One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.”
Al Mohler comments on this study:
“Evangelical Christians and churches should look at this report closely. There is a wealth of data here that helps to define the mission field we face in America. There are danger signs. Here are several points of concern:
- Our evangelism is not keeping pace with growth in the population. Evangelical churches are growing, but falling behind in the task of reaching Americans with the Gospel.
- We are losing many young people and many of those who switch from evangelical identity switch to “nothing in particular.”
- Evangelicals are accustomed to being part of a Protestant majority, but that majoritarian posture is about to be taken away (and already has been in some communities).
All this reminds us of the complexity of our context and the immensity of our challenge. We cannot look at this data with mere interest. These numbers represent real people who desperately need to hear the Gospel — and to see authentic Christianity made visible. ”