Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Chew On This …


108_drbibby38In a recent article “Teen Atheism on the Rise” Professor Reginald Bibby gives all of us some tough news to chew on. It is especially tough for us in the church as it gives a stark outline of the growing work that we must do, not simply to stay connected, but to actually re-connect with a society and culture that is increasingly moving in a very different direction from us.

But the news is tough even for those who don’t think much of the church or her mission. It’s tough to chew because it points out some troubling numbers for society in its head-long rush to villify the Christian Church … It seems the numbers show that as people increasingly leave the church behind, they are less nice to be around! In his study Prof. Bibby found that only 54% of non-believers considered having concern for others to be highly important. Only 44% of the same, thought that forgiveness was important. And only 35% thought patience ranked highly as a value to hold.

Gee … you think? As if we needed the numbers to tell us the obvious.

There are those who argue that you don’t need the church to teach such values … fine I say … then you can start any time! Anyone who has ever had to stand in line at a store check-out, or wait at a red light, knows how well the world teaches patience. Anyone who has ever made a mistake, been the victim of a grudge, or a vendetta, knows how highly society holds up forgiveness. Anyone who has ever walked down the main street of any town in any province of our country can see for themselves the kind of concern most people have for those in need. Yes, I suppose you can teach such values without the church getting involved, but I have yet to see any proof of it.

But lest you think it is only the athiests at fault consider these statistics from the same article (which I would argue are perhaps even more disheartening) Only 55% of Christians polled valued patience highly. (That means nearly 1 out of every 2 Christians seems unconcerned with using this gift given them by the Holy Spirit!) Only 72% upheld the importance of being concerned for others. One in four apparently thinks it is OK to care foremost about oneself, despite all that the second table of God’s Law says to the contrary. And only 72% of Christians valued forgiveness as highly important. Forgiveness! That one precious gift bought with the blood of Christ upon the cross. Forgiveness, the one and only way that anyone will ever see the gates of heaven unlocked! Forgiveness, the foundation, and substance of the Christian faith … and nearly a quarter of the Christians polled didn’t think it all that necessary!

As tough as this news is to chew, I suppose that it does make the story of this Holy week so much more important to believer and athiest alike! More important and therefore maybe easier to swallow. The bitter suffering and rejection of Jesus at the hands of friends and foes alike, the impatience of the religious and secular leaders to be done with all annoyances, the debt of sin and selfishness that could only be paid by the innocent suffering and death of Jesus on the cross … this is not just some tragic story of what might have been. It is the story of what had to be. It is the story of how God was concerned enough to rescue us from ourselves. It is the story of how God was patient enough to bring everything together all at once, so salvation could be gained once and for all. It is the story of how God loved each and every one of us – selfish, impatient, unforgiving so-and-so’s that we are, to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die and thus earn us forgiveness. It is a sweet piece of news we could all chew on for a while!

Author: kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.

5 thoughts on “Chew On This …

  1. Pingback: Posts about Holy Spirit as of April 9, 2009 | PRAYtheREVOLUTION

  2. Speaking as one who has only recently left his teenage years behind (I’m 21), the issue of teenage atheism and agnosticism hits home pretty hard. More frustrating, however, is apathy. I could probably count on one hand the amount of youth/young adults still attending a church today who were confirmed in my home congregation over the past fifteen years. Counting myself, I think it numbers about three.

    Dropping attendance among youth has been a significant problem in the LCC and other mainstream denominations for some years. [I’ve often wondered why the issue has been less prevalent among “evangelical” group (though recent studies suggest the problem is beginning to take hold there too).] I’ve got my opinions – quite a few of them, in fact. But what it ultimately boils down to is the Sunday-Christian mentality so frequent among our congregants. People might come to church on Sundays for tradition’s sake, but their professed faith isn’t make a difference in their day-to-day lives. People don’t talk about Jesus to their work-colleagues and friends. Parents don’t pray with their children. Families don’t read Scripture together. They don’t even read it individually, for that matter. If the Church is to be revitalized in North America, it needs to begin at the bottom, at the congregational level. YouTube videos may be a useful evangelistic approach to meet unreached youth; but the primary source of declining membership is youth leaving the Church. When youth remain in a congregation, when they are actively living out their faith, reading Scripture and praying daily, then church growth will follow naturally. Youth will themselves grow up and raise children in actively faithful homes. And they will want to share the Gospel with others.

    My thoughts on the matter? We’ve got a strong, unshakeable foundation in Jesus Christ. But it might be time to do some repairs on the ground floor.

  3. Captain … welcome aboard.

    Thanks for the great insights! I think the original article speaks to the apparent security of “evangelical” youth groups when it talks about faith being supported by the group and not just the individual. Many such churches have simply been isolated from the trend by pure numbers. Lutheran churches have traditionally been smaller community parishes (rather than regional mega-churches) where the loss of a single family can sometimes have devastating effects on moral. But even in these larger groups the numbers will reach the tipping point.

    I also like your thoughts on compartmentalization of the faith. Compartmentalization is prevalent in space stations, ship hulls, and airplanes … all places facing extreme environments. The idea is that if you compartmentalize it all and something bad happens you might lose some but you won’t lose it all. If you do the same with your faith, you’ve already lost it all. As you rightly stated. Our faith can never be simply another part of our lives, it must hold every part of our life together or it all falls apart!

    What kinds of repairs do you envision as being able to “buck the trend” of youth losses? How should we begin (practically speaking) to reverse the damage?

  4. Pingback: Captain Thin » Stemming the Tide of Church Youth Dropouts

  5. Hi Ken. For my response to your question of how we begin to reverse the dropout trend, see my new blog posting entitled “Stemming the Tide of Church Youth Dropouts.”


    Oh, and my apologies for my spelling errors in my previous comment. This should be a lesson to me to remember to proofread before submitting.

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