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Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. -- Colossians 4: 5-6 (ESV)
The term "elephant in the room" is an English metaphorical idiom meaning an obvious truth that no one wants to address. The irony of the term of course is rooted in the fact that something as large as an elephant should not be so easily overlooked. We have spent a great deal of time outlining the inherent problems with the Purpose Driven Church model of church growth which is utilized by the vast majority of churches in this country. How the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex has turned doctrine into a dirty word. How the church is now geared towards entertaining goats rather than tending to the sheep. How the church has strived so hard to be relevant to culture while abandoning the fundamental tenets of the Gospel. When your church growth model and strategies strip out of the Gospel any serious discussion of sin, death, and repentance, salvation becomes a parlor trick. When it is dumbed down to nine words vaguely referring to mistakes instead of sins, the elephant grows only larger. The Bible says we are supposed to be a shining city on a hill beloved. The church is supposed to stand out to the world. To stand apart from it. Unfortunately, the church has spent the last two decades implementing the Purpose Driven model which blends the church with the world so much that you can barely tell them apart anymore. The damage to the church is immense as it is largely filled with unconverted goats that are taught to try and act like sheep but there is damage to the world as well. When we fail to be salt and light there is a dangerous price that is paid.
I say this as a backdrop to recent survey results conducted by the Christian group Lifeway. This scientific study was commissioned by Ligonier Ministries. The data and report can be found at the link above. There is a great amount of data, so I encourage you to review it all. I will try and review the most disturbing portions here. The options for answering were on a five point scale. They were strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, strongly disagree, and not sure. Let's review some of the results:
1) God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake. Only 50% of respondents said they Strongly Agree. Half of the people in this country do not believe in the infallibility of God. I guess this is not too surprising when you consider the allowed sin in this culture but what role does the church play? This is why so many good teachers and apologists balked recently when Andy Stanley preached against the inerrancy of Scripture. He has tried to walk it back but everyone knows what he said. When the church undermines the inerrancy of Scripture they are undermining the infallibility of God.
2) God is the author of Scripture. Only 37% of respondents said they Strongly Agree. Sixty-three percent of people in this country no longer believe God wrote the Bible. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people in this country identify as Christian.
3) God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. A combined 64% either strongly agree or somewhat agree. Think about how staggering that number is! When we complained that the Assemblies of God and other evangelical teachers got into bed with Roma Downey for the Bible Miniseries many discounted the criticism but it was that series that had the Jesus character recite that He was the way, the truth and the life -- and then cut to commercial without saying the qualifier that NONE come to the Father except through Him. When Carl Lentz goes on Oprah and says you do not have to be Christian to be in relationship with God, this is the end result. When Dr. Michael Brown then allows him to wriggle off the hook and pretend he did not say it, our witness is that much more damaged.
4) Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred. Only 45% said they strongly agree. Forty-five percent beloved. When the world watches Christian television and sees the Joel Osteens and TD Jakes' of the world preaching utter nonsense instead of the Gospel this is the result. Rick Warren is on record advising pastors to not preach the Gospel on Easter Sunday so people "have a reason to come back." My pastor says EVERY message should be brought back to the cross or it is not worth preaching. This number should shame us.
5) The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being. A combined 56% either strongly agree or somewhat agree. Star Wars theology at its finest. While we understand the world being confused exactly how is the church helping this confusion? By putting out absurd movies regarding the Holy Spirit where He essentially is reduced to down to a mystical force. By teaching false signs and lying wonders. By condoning new age and mysticism to infiltrate our theology. This also speaks to the level of false conversion in the church. If you do not have the Holy Spirit indwelt than He may seem like some esoteric "force" rather than a real person.
6) Everyone sins a little but most people are good by nature. A whopping 65% either strongly agreed or agreed somewhat. This is basic Christology beloved. We are all born dead in our trespasses and sins. None are righteous. All have turned away. Yet what does the world see from the not so shining city today? They see Joseph Prince saying God is never angry with us. They see Creflo Dollar saying to toss aside the Ten Commandments. They see Joel Osteen talk about how great we are. Quite frankly, I am surprised this number is not higher.
7) Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. I understand this is a difficult question but 62% strongly disagreed. Only 19% fell into the two agreement categories. Some of this may stem from the poor Catholic teachings of mortal and venial sins. The Bible however makes it clear that all sin separates us from God and is therefore mortal. All sin leads to eternal damnation. That was why we needed a Savior! Of course the church today has absolutely no intention of discussing these matters anymore. They are not considered seeker friendly. The result is a world that thinks there are lesser sins that are no big deal.
8) By the good deeds that I do, I partly contribute to earning my place in heaven. Catholicism once again contributes to this misunderstanding as it teaches works are needed on top of faith even though the Bible says no such thing. Still, only 35% fell into the two disagreement categories. So many will stand before Jesus and say Lord Lord. Their lives filled with what they thought were lesser sins outweighed by greater works. None of that will matter and the church is largely responsible for it.
9) The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true. Forty percent fell into the agreed categories with 45% in the disagree camp. Nearly a 50-50 split on the veracity of Scripture. Thank you Andy Stanley. Beloved there is a real cost when we preach human wisdom instead of divine Scripture. It is because people think Scripture is not God-breathed that they can more easily accept "lesser sins" and think they can earn their way into heaven. The Bible becomes a salad bar where they can pick what they like and leave what they do not. But God is still God and the church is still supposed to be the church.
10) The Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses. The agreed answers make up for a majority at 51%. More than half the country believes the Bible only on their own terms and not God's. Who can blame them really? They go to churches where the pastor does just that. Where very Bible story is about them instead of Jesus. Where you go from the prison to the palace in one day instead of Joseph. Where you slay Goliath instead of David. The Bible is actually about Jesus but the way it is preached results in swaths of people believing they are Christian but not knowing Jesus.
11) The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches. Once again referencing the recent teachings of Andy Stanley we see the damage done when mega church heretics try to demean the inerrancy of Scripture. Only 29% strongly agreed with this statement. How pitifully sad. Once you remove the inerrancy of Scripture, you are free to make things up as you go along. That is how you get to thinking all religions are acceptable to God. That is how you get to believe that everyone goes to heaven.
12) Heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. A combined 60% of respondents believe this statement to be true beloved. This candy coated version of faith is not surprising considering the candy coated gospels being preached today. Christians flock to silly movies about visiting heaven; follow false prophets who have claimed to have visited heaven, and support the most egregious false teachers today. It is any wonder that people do not have any sense of consequence for their own behavior?