Strategies for Creating Biblical Worldview Depth in Church Based Training?
The Lostness of America
The landscape of American religious belief is in a serious state of flux in the 21st century. Perhaps like no other time in our country’s history, over the past couple of decades, its population’s worldviews and beliefs have changed radically. In this article we will look at documented evidence of this trend and suggest ways churches can stem the tide among the children and youth in their congregations.
In 2009, Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, published an update of its two earlier American Religious Identification Survey Summary Reports. The principal investigators for the project were Trinity College researchers Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar.
The first such survey was conducted in 1990 when the U.S. population was estimated to have 175 million adults. A second survey was done in 2001 when the adult population had topped 200 million. The third survey was made in 2008 when the adult population had reached 228 million. Kosmin’s and Ariela’s research revealed several disturbing facts about the spiritual lostness of America (to read the researcher’s 2008 report summary go to www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org).
To begin with, they found that the percentage of American adults claiming to be Christian (by whatever definition the respondents chose) went from 86.2%, in 1990, to 76.7%, in 2001. The percentage had dropped even further in 2008 to 76.0%. This is a serious indication of how Christianity, which for the first two centuries of U.S. history was its overwhelmingly predominant worldview, is slowly but surely losing its consensus of influence.
Even more alarming, according to the surveys, the percentage of those adults who claim no religious affiliation at all rose significantly in the survey populations. In 1990, the percentage of those claiming no faith was 8.2% of the adult U.S. population. In 2001, the percentage rose to 14.2%. And by 2008 it was 15.0%.
And, while the percentage of the population that claimed to be Protestant and Evangelical Christians fell, the two largest pseudo-Christian cults, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, maintained their percentages of adults from 1990 to 2008.
Also troubling is the finding that, since 1990, the percentage of people in America identifying themselves as Muslim has doubled. Even more so, those claiming adherence to Eastern Religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc., increased by 225%! The researchers concluded that the increase of Islam and the Eastern Religions was mainly due to immigration from predominantly Far-eastern and Middle-eastern nations. For evangelical Christians, it is clear that the World Religions are coming to America faster than we are reaching them for Christ.
Another interesting finding in the survey is how adults answered the question, “Does God exist?” In 2008, 2.3% of adults gave an Atheistic response like, “There is no such thing as God.” 10% gave an Agnostic response saying, “There is no way to know” or “I’m not sure.” 12.1% gave a Pantheistic or Pagan response such as, “There is a higher power but no personal God.” Only 69.5% of the adult population gave a Theistic answer like, “There is definitely a personal God.” This means, ironically, that many of those professing to be Christians must also be atheists or agnostics.
So what can we, as evangelicals, do to stem the tide – at least within the community of our churches? Let me say at the outset, there is no magic formula or simple way to protect our children and youth from the influences of the world and its philosophies. Nonetheless, we must do all we can.
A Church Based Plan
I would like to suggest one practical way we can better equip our church people to make a difference in the battle for the mind in which we are now engaged. Pastors should strongly encourage church leaders and teachers to attend training courses on six basic Christian worldview issues, preferably in the following order.
The best place to begin this process is by introducing church members to the universe, or I should say the universes, of worldview. As my colleague, Freddy Davis has so well defined it, worldview is “the assumptions people make about the structure of reality.” It is so fundamental to the way we view our lives that most don’t even realize there are other possibilities, if they don’t deliberately make the effort to study it.”
Biblical Authority and Principles of Interpretation
One of the most crucial issues for church leaders to understand is why we regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Churches need to explain the reasons we can trust the Scriptures. This lesson includes how the Bible books were written and collected into our current canon. It also should teach sound principles of biblical interpretation that take into consideration the following points.
∙ What are the precise meanings of the words used in both the Greek and Hebrew texts?
∙ What is each book’s historical setting and the time it was written in the progress of God’s revelation?
∙ What is the particular book’s type of literature (poetry, history, epistle, wisdom, etc.)?
∙ What is the context of any passage, both immediate and general?
∙ How can we allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds to understand it?
(For more information on these principles go to http://www.marketfaith.org/what%e2%80%99s-so-special-about-the-bible-part-2-the-bible%e2%80%99s-meaning-for-today.)
Basic Christian Doctrine
How many people in church pews today could name and/or explain the basic and essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith? Many of them probably could recite the Apostles Creed, which is a pretty good outline of basic Christian beliefs. That being said, it is unlikely they could explain with any depth what those doctrines actually mean. Churches need to take time to adequately train their members so they can confidently understand historic Christian theology (this should take priority over teaching their denominational distinctives).
In the above mentioned statistic we described a shrinking percentage of people in America who identify themselves as Christians. This trend is due, in part, to the fact that many educated people no longer regard Christianity, or the worldview of Christian Theism, as intellectually defensible in the modern world. The triumph of Naturalism in academia over the past two centuries has convinced them that Christianity cannot possibly be true.
For this reason, churches should include, in their regular teaching curriculum, lessons on the philosophical, historical, and scientific cogency of Christianity. A treasure trove of excellent materials to accomplish this goal is now available from many sources. (MarketFaith Ministries of course has resources at our website at www.marketfaith.org. Other good websites are listed at the ends of this article.) We can no longer afford simply to teach our people, especially children and youth, only what to believe. We must now teach them WHY the Christian faith is the truth!
The past several decades we have witnessed, in America, a great influx of immigrants from all over the world. As a result, Christians are now often exposed to people with worldviews differing from their own. It is, therefore, incumbent on churches to educate their people about those other worldviews and the people groups that adhere to them. Many of them are aggressive in their proselytism and may even try to deceive Christian church members. Also, we need to know how to share Christ effectively with their followers.
At MarketFaith Ministries we identify four basic worldview categories that encompass all the world’s perspectives. They are (1) Naturalism; (2) Animism; (3) Far Eastern Thought; and (4) Theism. Some groups try to combine two or more worldviews into a single concept. We call these hybrids. The truth is, though, the four basic classifications are all contradictory and really cannot be logically synthesized.
Christianity, of course, is a subset of the Theistic worldview. But even within that worldview classification are many nonChristian world religions (ex. Judaism and Islam) and pseudo-Christian cults (ex. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses). So, even within Theism are numerous belief systems that conflict with historic Christianity. Christian leaders need to understand these competing movements in order to correct unbiblical teaching.
(For a complete explanation of the four basic worldviews and their practical implications go to http://www.marketfaith.org/what-is-a-worldview.)
The last essential worldview element that desperately needs to be addressed in churches is Christian ethics. American moral structures, influenced by Naturalism and the other nonChristian worldviews, have been and are continuing to moving rapidly away from the biblical standards that in former generations regarded as normative. Thus we must educate Christians, especially children and youth, as to what the Bible teaches about key ethical concerns. Moral issues such as sexuality, marriage, abortion, drugs and alcohol, and citizenship need to be addressed by churches. Young people will inevitably have to confront these questions of right and wrong as individuals and as a society. Worldview directly impacts these matters.
In conclusion, all wise evangelical churches should include the above six worldview issues in age appropriate curriculum for children, youth, and adults. That being said, this training should be parallel to, not instead of, basic age appropriate Bible content education (Sunday School or Bible Study). MarketFaith Ministries has a vast store of resources to use in this endeavor. Visit our website and store at www.marketfaith.org.
Other Recommended Websites for Resources
Apologetics Index – www.apologeticsindex.org
Cult Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) – www.carm.org
Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) – www.emnr.org
NAMB Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism – www.4truth.net
Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries (Ron Rhodes) – www.ronrhodes.org
Rick Ross Institute – www.rickross.com
Risen Jesus (Mike Licona) – www.risenjesus.com
© 2013 Tal Davis