Thursday, June 4, 2009

3 Critical Issues Facing The Church Right Now

For those of you who couldn't make it to the last Vision Youth Network I thought I'd offer a brief summary of what I spoke on.

With the pace of ministry nowadays its easy for us to feel like hamsters running madly on a hamsters wheel... going nowhere. Ministry is unlike most jobs where you can see results in a fairly short space of time. Building into people takes time.

Unfortunately, with this long wait to see the fruit of our labour, we can veer off course and end up never seeing the fruit we have been working so hard for.
It is for this reason that we must ensure that we are headed in the right direction.

With this in mind I see 3 major issues that we seem to be unaware of in our ministry:
1) Biblical Illiteracy
2) Cultural / generational semantics
3) Orthodoxy needs Orthopraxy

1) Biblical Illiteracy

A Barna study showed that of Christians, only 3% of under 25yr olds and 9% of over 25yr olds have a Biblical world view as determined by the following 8 criteria:
a) Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.
b) That God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator of the universe and He still rules it today.
c) Salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned.
d) Satan is real.
e) A Christian has a responsibility to share his / her faith in Christ with other people.
f) The Bible is accurate in all of the principals that it teaches.
g) Unchanging moral truth exists.
h) Moral truth is defined by the Bible.

2) Cultral / Generational Semantics

We live in an age of Truth Relavitism where there are no absolute truths. Truth is simply relative to some particular frame of reference. Hence we hear people say things like, '... that's true for you but not for me.'

So when you're communicating one thing your audience could be interpreting something different altogether!

Josh McDowell explains the difference in our younger generations semanitics compared to ours in the following chart which is from his book: The Last Christian Generation (pg22)


Your Understanding

(Adult Culture)

Postmodern Understanding

(Youth Culture)


Accepting others without agreeing with or sharing their beliefs or lifestyle choices.

Accepting that each individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyles, and truth claims are equal.


Give due consideration to others beliefs and lifestyle choices without necessarily approving of them.

Wholehearted approving of others’ beliefs or lifestyle choices.


Embracing people for who they are, not necessarily for what they say or do.

Endorsing and even praising others for their beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Moral Judgments

Certain things are morally right and wrong as determined by God.

We have no right to judge another person’s view or behaviour.

Personal Preference

Preferences of colour, food, clothing style, hobbies, etc. are personally determined.

Preferences of sexual behaviours, value systems, and beliefs are personally determined.

Personal Rights

Everyone has the right to be treated justly under the law.

Everyone has the right to do what he or she believes is best for himself or herself.


Being free to do what you know you ought to do.

Being able to do anything you want to do.


An absolute standard of right and wrong.

Whatever is right for you.

3) Orthodoxy Needs Orthopraxy

While people may have a grip on orthodoxy (right beliefs) it seems that very few have a good orthopraxy (right acions).
Numerous stastics from Barna and other researchers indicate that there is a minute difference in lifestyles and behaviour of Christians!

Once again out of Josh McDowell's book (pg17) The Last Christian Generation, we see that while 91% of Christians and 90% of non-Christians were satisfied with their ethics and character, that 63% of Christians had physical hurt someone in the last 12 months when they were angered (this is compared to 67% of non-Christians.
74% of Christians cheated on a test as compared with 76% of non-Christians.
The list could go on...

This all paints a grim picure.
I in know way feel that I have a substancial grip on the solutions but let me give you some of my preliminary thoughts:

1) The reason we have Biblical Iliteracy is due to a lack of discipline. People are too lazy to read the Word of God. They prefer spoonfeeding through 5 min devotionals or listening to the latest podcast etc.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control / discipline. (Gal 5: 23)
We need to ask God to work the fruit of the Holy Spirit into our lives.

We also need a new standard by which to live. Mirroring the world can no longer be acceptable!
And with this we need higher levels of accountability.

2) We should not assume that the semantics we mean will be the semantics that our audiences interpret.

3) We need new success markers. No longer can orthodoxy be enough.
We need a new measurement of success as ministry leaders. Bums on seats doesn't cut-it!
We need to recognize and reward those who are truly walking out their orthopraxy.

Well that was a basic overview.
What are your thoughts on the above? I'd love you to leave a comment and share your thoughts with us. Lets journey together.

Godspeed & Kaizan


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by truth? Is truth knowledge or is it honesty, authenticity, genuineness? Christian’s tend to think of truth as being knowledge – I know the truth – but postmodern thinkers tend to think of truth in terms of not lying, in which case it makes absolute sense to talk about something being true for me and not for you.

I would disagree that absolute truth (as in knowledge) has been rejected – rather I would agree with Brian McLaren when he claims that absolute certainty has been rejected. I would also claim that it is acknowledged that there are absolute truths but ‘we’ have been wrong so many times in the past that it is arrogant to say that I know the truth and you do not. Truth is actually so important that to claim to know it is to claim the impossible. The need to know the ultimate ‘truth’ is thus rejected and instead uncertainty, humility and constant doubt are embraced. For a Christian to come in and say ‘this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ invites judgments of arrogance and rejection from the postmodern relative listener.

We need to understand the underlying ideas and concepts that are shaping the understanding of words in the culture around us. Language is powerful and it is prescriptive, the words I understand and the concepts I have been raised to think from limit my thinking – I cannot think something I have never experienced or been introduced to (a person born in a tribe in Alaska who has never seen tv, never had it described, never heard it referenced is highly unlikely to ever conceive of the idea of a tv). If we are talking with someone who understands truth as something of high importance, something that requires great honesty, authenticity and humility from anyone who dares to attempt to describe it – then to say this is the truth, I am right and you are wrong, is to alienate them.

Thats my first thought will continue to process through ur post and respond as I find time lol

Anonymous said...

How do we get back in touch with the generational semantics? Do we really have a depth of understanding of our current cultural climate that we are trying to communicate to? If not, as is well pointed out, we will be 'missing the mark' (one of the definitions of sin) that the gospel should be hitting...does our lack of orthopraxy stem out of this missing the mark and not communicating the truth of the gospel in way that addresses the current needs, without the cost to the gospel (so therefore avoiding synchretism). Has the church missed the mark by not holding people to account for there lack of orthopraxy in past? I think we have fallen on the side of grace (which is good to lean that way, don't get me wrong) and sometimes missed the part of the gospel where the unrepentant sinner is to be treated 'like the tax collectors and sinners' (while they are still unrepentant).
Have we stemmed too far down the grace, to the point of saying one thing (orthodoxy) but allowing something entirely different (orthopraxy)? Does this stem into synchretism where we allow the pervading culture to adopt parts of the gospel that suit? or vice versa?

Truth is hard to define in the best of times, but I think the point is the acceptance or not of an ultimate truth. If one accepts that there is than a way is open or some dialogue about what that truth may be. If however, if ultimate truth is denied then there is no dialogue and so how do we go about addressing the issues we need to.

These are just my initial thoughts...I don't yet know the answers, but either way, I do think these challenges definitely face the church...and also individuals in how they witness. After all, if we are to spread the word, we are the message and if we are to be true to the gospel we need to have these sorted at a personal level before worrying about "the church"

Kev said...

I'm currently listening to an interesting series from Cornerstone Church, they've just recently held a Gospel Conference, which focuses you guessed it on the Gospel.

But was is interesting is that it discusses what it looks like to live the gospel, and perhaps this is the main issue the church and we as ministry leaders face.

I'd encourage you to listen into how Cornerstone Church is working through this cultural shift. The series has 5 parts but be sure to also listen to the message entitled "who's the cult" my opinion is that this is part 6 and Francis deals with 3 main questions/hestitations people in his church raise after being confronted with this cultural shift.