Recently, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a survey about the religious affiliation of the American public. This survey indicated that there is a huge shift taking place in the religious affiliation of Americans. They found that more than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all. And that is only for people completely changing religions. If you count those who have moved from one Protestant denomination to another, that figure rises to forty-four percent.
In trying to analyze the reasons for this shift, the Pew Forum drew several conclusions. Their belief is that there are actually several reasons for this massive shift. They attributed part of it to American society’s “competitive religious marketplace. ”Another factor is a “dropping confidence in organized religion.”
I am certain that these conclusions have an element of truth to them. But they do not tell the whole story. There is another factor which is absolutely critical to understand if we want to get at this issue in a way that allows us to actually do something to turn the tide.
We human beings have a deep seated need to connect with God. It is a part of our very being. God created us as spiritual beings with this element built into us.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of people don’t know how to effectively do that – even many who are affiliated with a church. In America, other worldview beliefs have become such a part of the fabric of society that we don’t even tend to think in terms of a real Christian worldview anymore. Even the conclusions of the Pew Forum are based on Naturalistic methodologies rather than Christian ones. They have looked to the “sociological reasons” rather than “spiritual reasons” for the changes. They see it as what is going on in society rather than what is going on it the heart of the individual.
What is even more tragic is that the average church is not effective in stemming this tide. The evidence for this is seen in the results of the survey. Too many churches have so been so swamped by other belief systems that they have either bought in or been overwhelmed and defeated by them. There are even entire denominations which are crumbling from within as they fight over such things as whether or not homosexuality is a sin and whether or not Jesus’ death and resurrection were actual events which supply the means for the salvation of mankind. As a result, these churches are not helping their members understand the fight they are in and not giving them the tools to stand strong in their faith.
So what happens? Since people don’t seem to be able to find the answers to the yearning of their hearts in the church, they begin looking, in large numbers, for other places and ways to have their spiritual needs met.
The problem here is a worldview problem. Society is laying a worldview foundation which says that ultimate reality is founded strictly on the natural world or on some set of spiritual principles which is contrary to Christian teachings. To the degree that people buy into that, they are not looking to a personal relationship with God to meet their need. The result is, they look somewhere else.
In order for Christians to reverse that trend, we must go to go back to square one and once again lay out a Christian worldview foundation in a way which helps people have confidence in their own faith. With this, they will have the motivation to share that faith with people who are moving in a different direction.
So, what exactly is necessary for us to pull this off? How can we make sure that we, personally, have the right perspective and are channeling our energies in a direction which will make a difference?
In order to turn the tide, there are two things which we must do. First of all, we must understand the problem and deal with it on a personal level. Secondly, we must make our own personal relationship with God a real and active personal relationship. Let’s look at these briefly and see why these are so critical.
Understanding the Problem and Dealing with it on a Personal Level
This first matter relates to understanding worldview. I know we hammer on this a lot, and that it is not understood as a critical matter by most people. But the fact is, everything that we do in life, without exception, is based on our worldview foundation. You cannot address any issue in life outside of that truth. So the question becomes: What do you do when you confront a person who is a Secular Humanist or a Wiccan or a Buddhist or a Jehovah’s Witness? Do you know what they believe? Do you know how they think? Can you share Christ with them in a way that allows them to understand? If one of them attacks your faith, are you able to turn the tables and help them understand why their attack is baseless? And even more telling, do you think that it is important to even be able to do this?
Your answers to these questions reveals two important things. First, they reveal whether or not your own worldview is based on a Biblical view of life. If you don’t see the need, you are obviously coming from a worldview belief system that is not based on the Bible. Secondly, they reveal whether or not you have the tools to engage people who have other belief systems with the gospel message. For instance, if you try to share the love of God with someone who says they don’t believe in God (or who has an entirely different understanding of God), simply giving a gospel presentation may not make sense to them.
The whole purpose of MarketFaith Ministries is to provide you with the tools you need to stand with confidence in your own Christian faith and to share the love of God with those who don’t know him. An understanding of worldview is not an option any more for Christians who are serious about living a life of obedience to Christ.
Making Our Personal Relationship with God a Real and Active Personal Relationship
The second matter we must address if we want to turn the tide of people converting to other beliefs is that we must make our own relationship with God personal and vital. A great knowledge of the facts and possibilities, even regarding worldview, is not enough to motivate us to actually live our lives for Christ. The only thing that can do that is for us to continually experience a personal and active relationship with him.
The real question is: How real is God to you? If you truly believe that God is a real person with whom you are able to have a real, objective relationship, it changes the way you evaluate and live life.
Here’s how this concept plays out. If God is, to you, simply an abstract concept or principle, then the service you do becomes impersonal – like a duty or a good deed. In this case, you do the deed because it seems right to do good deeds. Now, most Christians will acknowledge intellectually that God is, indeed, a real person. But all too often the intellectual acknowledgment does not translate into an actual personal interaction.
On the other hand, if we know God as a real person and learn how to listen to him speak directly to our minds, and if we can use our imagination properly to experience his actual presence with us, we become able to interact with him in the same way that we interact with people who have physical bodies. When we can experience God as an actual person that we personally interact with, our service then becomes personal and we do it out of love for him rather than out of a sense of duty. The difference that this makes regarding our motivation to serve God is dramatic.
Helping People Who Are Confused
If we want to be able to deal with the struggles which cause people to change religions and turn away from Christ, we must deal with their beliefs on a worldview level. People won’t turn away from Christ if they know him as a real person and experience his work in their lives. By the same token, people won’t stay with a church or a religion which does not give them peace in their hearts and assurance of the rightness of their beliefs.
If we wish to be instruments of God to help people who are struggling with the truth about Jesus Christ, we must know and be convinced, at a worldview level, that our own faith is the truth. Then, we must be able to articulate that truth to others in a way that helps them understand and become convinced in their own hearts. When enough Christians become able to take this step, we will begin to stem the tide of people drifting away from faith in Jesus Christ.
© 2008 Freddy Davis