The Seat of the Scornful II – Will our kids go to Heaven?

Posted: 12/20/2011 in Uncategorized

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 NIV

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

This very, very part-time blog is primarily intended to connect with the saints of Salinas who attend Life Christian Center…

Consider… C. Britt Beemer – Former Senior Research Analyst for the Heritage Foundation.  Managed 14 senatorial campaigns, including the detailed research and strategic planning involved.  Founder and Senior Director of Research at America’s Research Group (ARG) which he founded in 1979.  Premier marketing strategist who has been cited by Wall Street Journal, NY Times, CNN, Fox News, and many other media outlets.  Beemer designed a detailed questionnaire, performed data analysis, and interpreted the results of a comprehensive survey of young adults raised with weekly attendance in various “conservative, Bible-believing” churches who have left church altogether.  Beemer examined the reasons and factors involved in young adults who leave Jesus Christ altogether versus those who leave church altogether while maintaining a basic belief in Jesus.  The results of his work are too vast for me to list in detail here, but some of his findings were shocking – especially to Beemer himself.

Beemer’s research has indicated that the overwhelming majority of those who ultimately left the faith were already gone before graduating college.  Roughly 11% surveyed reported giving up on God or the church as a result of what they were exposed to in their college-aged years.  The rest had already left in their hearts and minds before graduating high school – with the spike beginning in middle school and increasing in high school where over 80% of them reported being lost.  Roughly half were already gone in elementary school and middle school.  Beemer’s research shows that churches lose many more people by the end of middle school and many more by the end of high school than they ever will lose in college.  The difference is that by college or their 20s they can decide to stop attending church much easier than if still minors living at home.  Among those completely out of church by their 20s, 40% began doubting the truth of Scripture in middle school and 44% began doubting the truth of Scripture in high school.

WARNING about what they found next.  Beemer’s research also shows that:

Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.  Students who regularly attend Sunday school are actually

    1. More likely NOT to believe that all the accounts in the Bible are true
    2. More likely to defend that abortion should continue to be legal
    3. More likely to defend premarital sexual activity 
    4. More likely to accept that gay marriage should be legal
    5. More likely to believe God used evolution to change one kind of animal into to another
    6. More likely to view the Church as hypocritical
    7. Much more likely to have become anti-church through the years
    8. More likely to believe that “good people” don’t need to go to church

Quote from Beemer & Ham’s book:  “This was our most stunning and disconcerting result of the entire survey.  First, we found out that we were losing our kids in elementary school, middle school, and high school rather than in college.  Then we found out that Sunday school is one of the reasons why.  The “Sunday school syndrome” is contributing to the epidemic, rather than helping alleviate it.  These numbers are statistically significant and absolutely contrary to what we would expect.  This is a brutal wake-up call for the Church, showing how our programs and our approaches to Christian education are failing dismally…  You would naturally feel those who attended Sunday school would have deeper religious convictions.  However, we found the exact opposite… These results have come from the Christian education programs of the most dedicated, Scripture-affirming churches out there.”

The Barna Research Group discovered some interesting statistics in its polling.

  • Religious activity in the teen years does not translate into spiritual commitment as individuals move into their 20s and 30s as only 1 out of 4 spiritually active teenagers are maintaining a similar level of commitment into their 20s and 30s, while 3 out of 4 are “spiritually disengaged” – not attending church, reading their Bibles, or praying.
  • “It’s not entirely surprising that deep, lasting spiritual transformation rarely happens among teenagers – it’s hard work at any age, let alone with the distractions of youth.  And, since teenagers’ faith often mirrors the intensity of their parents’ (faith), youth workers face steep challenges because they are trying to impart something of spiritual significance that teenagers generally do not receive from home.”

Sociology professor, Christian Smith, conducted a massive study on youth and religion and published a book on his findings: He discovered (unsurprisingly) that school and media dominate the religious views of youth (therefore school and media are spiritual issues because of how they shape the worldview of youth).  As a result most kids – including churchgoing youth – end up with a religion that Smith calls MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM (See article previously mentioned by Dr. Al Mohler: http://www.christianpost.com/news/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion-6266/)

Good news from the Barna Group:  “One of the most striking findings from the research is the broad base of opportunities that Christian churches in America have to work with teenagers.  Overall, 81% of (all) teens say they have attended a church for a period of at least two months during their teenage years.  This represents substantial penetration and significant prospects for influencing the nation’s 24 million teens.”

According to Dr. Voddie Baucham’s research, less than 10% of “born-again” youth have a Biblical worldview and less than 5% are theologically literate enough to be called “Christian.”

According to the research of Alvin Reid: The largest rise of full-time youth ministers in history has been accompanied by the biggest decline in youth evangelism and retention.

Lifeway Christian Services conducted a survey of Bible-believing church parents and asked them to describe how they would define their children’s becoming successful:

  • Only 9% said that their definition of success for their children was for them to grow up to be godly (Christians) of faith.  
  • Most parents responses revolved around education, careers, money and other possessions/materialism.
  • This survey also discovered that the majority of Bible-believing Christian parents spend 0% of their time discipling their kids (in the Scriptures and in the faith).
  • Less than 1% of parents have family devotions.  Therefore, we must refocus our efforts to align with the Biblical pattern of home discipleship that is clear in both the OT (e.g., Deut 6:1-15) and the NT (e.g., Eph 6:1-4).  This problem is not just parents who are dropping the ball but also the long-held church system that led many to wrongly conclude that it’s “the church’s job.”  We must fix this together.

I realize that statistics can be manipulated by some, but these are reputable sources – often with no dog in a proverbial fight.  The traditional Sunday school-student ministry paradigm does not work at producing mature disciples in the long term.  Anecdotal stories of God sovereignly moving in a one-time instance are wonderful but they do not negate decades worth of research.  I have personally witnessed and received reports of astounding churches with Christian education and youth programs and Christian schools and quality leadership where youth retention was less than 10% upon entering adulthood.  The… emperor… has… no… clothes…  What most churches are doing, is not working.  Much of it may be related to the cultural influence as a whole that is far more pernicious than our programming can defend against.  Plus, how many kids become cultural Christians without evidence of true spiritual regeneration or doctrinal soundness?  This shouldn’t be surprising when much of the system is anti-Biblical, usurp authority, and world-borrowed to begin with.  In no way does this opinion invalidate the ministry of individuals who have successfully presented the gospel of salvation to children and youth – these are often legitimate evangelists, pastors, and teachers using legitimate spiritual gifts with God-ordained results.  But the traditional system and methodology is undermining their very ministry in many cases!  Let us return to Scripture.  The word of God and an adequate defense of the faith must be promoted and rooted in the Christian home and in a unified Christian church (public worship and house to house).  Can new technology and other advances be tremendously helpful in changing the ministry paradigm?  Absolutely.  Technology usually loses battles with tradition though, and so does challenging a failing methodology with hundreds of emotional strings attached.  Courage and intellectual honesty required.  I realize that I have no corner on the market of any specific ministry – in the scope of the church world and church history, I am quite literally, but a speck, but I have become a desperate enough speck over the years to endeavor to try new (old?) methodology to improve our kids’ odds.  I have no panacea, and this is not intended as an attack on anyone. But something must be done in our homes and in our church that bucks these disturbing trends.  Probably more than just one thing, so this becomes a journey rather than a quick-fix.

One of the largest evangelical churches in the country is Willow Creek outside Chicago.  Willow Creek popularized the “seeker-sensitive” church growth movement which certainly led to big crowds, eventually numbering in the thousands upon thousands.  However, WC took inventory to determine how many were actually growing spiritually as a result of what their church was doing.  They wanted to discover what actually helped people grow spiritually and more like Jesus.  Four years, 200 churches, and 80,000 surveys later, they found this:  “Everywhere we turned the data revealed the same truth: spending time in the Bible is hands down the highest impact personal spiritual practice.  More specifically… a contemplative process, one of thoughtful and careful deliberation.  This practice of ‘reflecting on the meaning of Scripture in my life’ is about using God’s word as a mirror that reflects back the truth of Scripture on the actions, decisions, and defense of one’s daily life.  This is not about skimming through a Bible passage or devotional in a mechanical way.  This is a powerful experience of personal meditation that catalyzes spiritual growth, starting at the very beginning of the spiritual journey.”

The tsunami sweeping kids away:  The evil worldviews most promoted through secular education and entertainment outlets…

SECULAR HUMANISM:  An atheistic and naturalistic philosophy that its committed to human reason, intelligence, pleasure, etc., as the main driving force for morality and decision-making rather than God or the Bible.

MORAL RELATIVISM:  A view that beliefs and morals (right and wrong, good and evil, true or false) are determined by the individual rather than absolutes determined by God.

MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over humanity
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself
  4. God does not need to be…involved in one’s life except…to resolve a problem
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

SEXUAL LIBERTINISM:  A view that humans are encouraged to freely engage in any sexual activity that they desire (presumably without physically hurting another person) without any restrictions or limitations put on them by God or government.  This is opposite of Biblical Christianity in which God clearly condemns all sexual activity one chooses to engage in outside the covenant of man-woman marriage.

Obviously, the Christian faith and experience has a supernatural advantage in that the grace of God – the power of God – the work of God can accomplish in a short time what might take much longer in a non-spiritual context.  However, given what we and our children are practicing (ingesting secular entertainment and educational philosophies) for many, many hours a day, week, and year – how much more time for disciplined training in the Christian faith must we be practicing – at home and at church – in order to be “world-class experts” in terms of our walk with God.  Is it a priority?  Do we want to be extraordinary Christians?  God, we cannot do this without Your grace.  Help us to evangelize and disciple more effectively.  Begin with me. (To be continued…)

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