New survey finds atheists know more about religion and the Bible than evangelicals.
The results of a Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life survey have been widely reported this week. Pew asked 3,400 Americans 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity, and other world religions. The results were surprising. It turns out that on average atheists answered more questions correctly than evangelicals.
Average number of questions answered correctly, out of 32:
White evangelical: 17.6
White Catholic: 16.0
White mainline Protestant: 15.8
Black Protestant: 13.4
Hispanic Catholic: 11.6
Pew has posted an online version of the survey. Take the quiz and see if you average better than other Americans.
When did ministry simply become a tool for marketing?
by Url Scaramanga
On September 21-22, Steven Furtick preached for 24 hours for an online audience of thousands. The senior pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, focused his hermeneutic marathon on the topic of “audacious faith.” And it’s not a coincidence that audacious faith is also the theme of his new book, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible, which debuted the same day.
In a report at The Christian Post Furtick initially stressed that the online preaching marathon was not a gimmick. “he acknowledged he wasn’t a TV preacher or ‘the LaBron James of pastors.’” But the report’s next paragraph says:
Responding to criticisms that he was merely "pimping" his book all day, Furtick admitted he was. But he said he was doing it because he truly believes the message – God's message – in the book will change people's lives.
One of the constant pleasures of studying Christian history is being reminded again and again that Qoheleth was right: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
American Christians have a complicated relationship with celebrities. On the one hand, we have a tendency to blame Hollywood and rock music for corrupting our youth. On the other, there are few things we like more than discovering that one of these entertainment insiders is a Believer. What could be more exciting than finding out we have a “secret agent” on the inside?
Well, it turns out this uneasy relationship with the famous is nothing new. In his Confessions (written around 397 AD), Augustine tells the story of a fellow named Victorinus, a notable Roman philosopher and rhetorician who becomes a Christian (Book 8, chapter 2). Victorinus was famous—so famous, in fact, that the Romans erected a statue of him in the Forum.
Is age-segmentation the same as racial segregation?
Last month Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale ended its model of offering multiple worship services designed to appeal to different ages, likes, and styles. Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor and a contributing editor to Leadership Journal, said "The best way a church can demonstrate unifying power of the Gospel before our very segregated world is to maintain a community that transcends cultural barriers," Tchividjian said in a sermon last month. "The church should be the one institution, the one community – this countercultural community – in our world that breaks barriers down."
An article at The Christian Post reports:
[Tchividjian] listed some of the drawbacks of segregated worship. In a traditional worship service, the church inadvertently communicates that God was more active in the past that He is in the present, he said. In a contemporary service, the church communicates that God is more active in the present than He was in the past. But a church must communicate God's "timeless activity," he indicated. The megachurch pastor also said he doesn't view separate worship services by style or age as any different from racial segregation, except that it's more subtle.
Driscoll says Chan is "coo-coo for Coco Puffs" for leaving his church. Is he right?
Earlier this year we ran an interview with Francis Chan in Leadership journal about the significant shifts he's led at his church in Simi Valley, California. Just as that issue of LJ when to print word leaked that Chan had resigned from his role as senior pastor. Usually news of a sudden resignation is quickly followed by rumors of a scandal. Not so with Chan. But that left everyone wondering--why did he leave?
This video features Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll, and Francis Chan. In it Driscoll (true to his reputation) asks what many have been thinking but unwilling to say. He wants to know why Chan decided to leave a thriving church.
What do you think of Chan's response? Would have left if you were in his shoes?
Nine out of ten young people say Christians are judgmental, but are they right?
By Skye Jethani
What did Jesus mean when he said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” It’s one of the most commonly quoted verses from the bible (Luke 6:37). Many of us, and not merely politicians, invoke the verse as a first defense when accused of wrong. It is also a favorite stone thrown by those outside the church to accuse Christians of hypocrisy.
In 2007 a book was published called UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity. It’s based on research done among non-Christian 20-somethings. One of their core findings was that nearly nine out of ten young people view Christians as “judgmental.” And given the prohibition against judging issued by Jesus, this would mean most people view Christians as hypocrites.
Given these findings, it’s pretty important that both Christians and non-Christians understand what Jesus means when he says “judge not.” The key is recognizing that the word judge can be used in two different ways in the New Testament. Sometimes judge is used to mean “judge between things,” to differentiate, or discern. In this case we judge between right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.
How a group of pastors is reaching a region as Christ Together.
By Brandon O'Brien
In late April 2010, more than 50 pastors crowded into a hotel conference room in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The event organizers, a small group of pastors from Chicagoland, were expecting 25 colleagues to turn out for the meeting. But when news got out about their visit, area pastors got excited. Scott Chapman, pastor of a multi-site church called The Chapel in Chicago's northern suburbs and president of the Christ Together network, shared with the Virginia pastors how Christ Together is helping churches across denominational and ethnic lines unite in service and evangelism to carry the gospel into their neighborhoods. He described a "sustained Christ awakening" that includes churches working together as the One Body of Christ to restore the reputation of Jesus in their area.
After the meeting, Scott Gifford, national director of Christ Together, attended two worship services that convinced him that this vision was taking root in Virginia.
The first was a Saturday night worship event in a predominately African-American Cornerstone Assembly of God in Hampton, Virginia. During the service, Pastor Gerard Duff preached from the Christ Together brochure.
Are we inoculating people to the gospel by talking more about living FOR God rather than WITH him?
Yesterday Leadership Network hosted their very popular online conference "The Nines." 6 minute videos ran all day featuring church leaders discussing "game changing" insights. Skye Jethani, senior editor of Leadership Journal and Out of Ur, used his 6 minutes to highlight a turning point in his ministry when he realized much of what we do "inoculates" people to the gospel because we emphasize living FOR God rather than living WITH him.
Perhaps pastors and church leaders should focus their energies more on understanding and valuing culture for itself instead of always trying to use it to bolster their church's insider credibility, suggests James Harleman, a pastor at Seattle's Mars Hill Church:
Instead of trying to be cool, we should seek out and support the places in culture that we believe are hitting the nail on the head. We need to re-train our minds in how we engage culture. Why do we listen to the music that we do? Why do we like the films that we like? Rather than force ourselves to like what is cool, we should seek to understand better why we like what we like. Be authentic to what you like.
The problem with the wannabe cool, "inner ringer" mindset is that it blinds us to our true desires and true enjoyments, replacing them with an overarching desire—pervasive and deeply ingrained in humanity—to want to be in the know. But being “in the know” is never as fulfilling or respectable as being in tune with what we’re truly passionate about.
Do we have a communal, and not merely an individual, responsibility to engage in mission and justice?
In the final installment of Skye Jethani's interview with Jim Wallis and Mark Dever, they discuss the role of local congregations in God's mission of reconciliation. Dever and Wallis agree that Americans are too individualistic and that Scripture calls for a communal witness of God's power and love. The two leaders disagree, however, on whether or not evangelicals should partner with mainline liberal churches.
Attempts to control God with our behaviors, prayers, and theology reveals how pagan the church can be.
by Brandon O'Brien
This year I have begun making the transition from student to teacher by teaching an introductory course on World Religions at a local college (while I’m still taking doctoral classes myself). We’re a couple weeks into our journey, and earlier this week we talked about indigenous (“pagan”) religions. One aspect of pagan religions that strikes me is that the relationships between the adherents and their gods is most often manipulative. When the gods are happy, the rains come, the crops grow, people have babies, people stay healthy. When the gods are unhappy, the land is blighted by drought, famine, barrenness, and disease. In order to set things right, the people have to make sacrifices, perform rituals, or repeat incantations to appease the gods. The system is set up to control the power of the deities. (Forgive me: this is an oversimplification, but we don’t have a lot of space.)
Biblical Christianity is essentially the opposite: the relationship between God and humans is not based on rites, rituals, and incantations; it is not a religion of manipulation. Instead, the relationship between God and God’s people is based on covenant and, first and foremost, on God’s gracious desire to love us in Christ.
That’s easy to say. But I’m ashamed to say that I catch myself from time to time beginning to think about my personal relationship with God in pagan terms.
Why are evangelical pastors relentlessly seeking to be cultural insiders?
by Brett McCracken
At various times in my evangelical youth group upbringing, I remember looking at youth pastors or church leaders and feeling either endeared (by how nerdy and yet believable they were) or repulsed (by how phony their attempts to be “culturally relevant” often seemed). Looking back, it’s very clear to me that the teachers and leaders I most respected and learned from were not the ones who were trying to be “cool,” but rather the ones who were honest about who they were and willing to learn about who I was.
But I don’t begrudge any youth pastor for trying to be cool. We all try to be cool. We all want to be insiders rather than outsiders. We want to be “in the know” rather than “out of the loop.” It’s a natural human tendency, as basic as our drive to want love or to conquer something. And because the temptation is so constant, it’s easy to take this pursuit-of-cool mindset for granted and not see it for the negative, does-more-harm-than-good endeavor that it often is.