Evangelizing the Churched

Evangelizing the Churched
by: Timothy Burns

The challenge for every generation of Christian evangelicals is to communicate the gospel message in a way that is relevant to their culture and community. In a way, we are all missionaries. Our message never changes, but our methods must constantly evolve if we are to connect in a relevant way with our neighbors and cities, friends and communities.

The following is the conclusion of a survey undertaken by the Barna Research group. The entire article is online, and available from the link in the footnote. Here is Barna’s conclusion.

“The data provide a distinct image of each faith group,” Barna commented. “Evangelicals are intensely driven by their faith: their life is substantially influenced by their beliefs and their lifestyle choices and aspirations reflect the centrality of their spirituality. Non-evangelical born again adults consider faith to be important but it is not the defining aspect of their existence; it is influential but not the determining factor. Notional Christians treat faith as just one of many dimensions of their life that serves a purpose, but it is not a driving force at all. Skeptics have replaced faith with a passion for healthy longevity and personal pleasure gained through world travel, sexual experiences, and obtaining knowledge. They are substantially less focused on relationships and legacy than are other groups. They tend to be less concerned about finding or pursuing a purpose in life because a majority of them believe life has no purpose beyond comfort and pleasure.” (1)

How long has it been since you objectively evaluated the composition of your mission field. Who is in your community? Who comes through the doors of your church? Who doesn’t?

Barna continues:

“It is intriguing to study the ebb and flow of spirituality in a person’s life,” he noted. “Those who fall into the evangelical stream have determined that life is all about the pursuit of God and the development of a life-altering faith. Atheists and agnostics, who slightly outnumber evangelicals, have arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion. And then there are the 80% or so who are at every other conceivable point along the continuum in between those two extremes. (2)

Barna adds that further research shows the evangelical church losing influence in the world. Instead, teens are on their way to constructing their own moral codes, as are many other societal segments. In the absence of relevant, influential moral and spiritual leadership from the Church who carries this responsibility, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17.6)

Reading deeply into the conclusion above, Barna’s research highlights the solution for those willing to respond. Eighty percent of our population falls on a continuous line stretching between atheist and evangelical, and most have been exposed to a Christian influence, evidenced by their use of that exposure to create their own spiritual manifesto. Evangelicals’ task, it would seem, is not preaching the message anew, but communicating the message in a relevant way that encourages and equips the nominally committed to take steps along that continuum toward the “development of a life-altering faith.”

What does that look like? What would it look like in your church?

(1) Taken from: “Survey Reveals the Life Christians Desire” www.barna.org, July 21, 2008, Retrieved Sept 13, 2008

(2) Ibid, as quoted from Revolution; Barna, George; Tyndale House Publ; 2006


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