A Disturbing Trend
PROBLEM: The last “What Now? The Post Covid Church Podcast” focused on the importance for Believers to have and live a Christian worldview. If scripture is authoritative, and is the guide to thinking and living as a Christian, then our behavior should match it. What we’re seeing now is not just a more secular culture, but a church filled with folks living inconsistently. One example: a recenter survey shows that 76% of practicing Christians believe that “To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue things you desire most.” Three out of four!
Dr. George Barna is the director of research of Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center. Every year the group conducts surveys to determine the “American Worldview Inventory.” Some of the results are shocking, including a sharp decline in Born Again Christians committed to practicing their faith. Dr. Barna has surveyed Christian belief and behavior for decades, so the Post-Covid results are not surprising to him. As he said in the report titled “How the Faith of Americans Has Shifted Since the Start of the Pandemic”:
“Although some of the belief and behavior shifts seem to conflict with each other, this is precisely what happens when the prevailing worldview of the nation is Syncretism,” he commented, referring to the most widespread worldview choice of Americans, which entails combining beliefs from a variety of worldviews into an unpredictable, customized blend that satisfies the emotional needs of the individual.
“Syncretism does not rely upon logic or consistency,” Barna continued. “Over time, many people struggle with the conflicts inherent in their syncretistic belief system, and the strange jumble of behaviors that emerge from those beliefs. But for the foreseeable future it is likely most people will ignore their incompatible philosophies and make do the best they can. They are seeking comfort and security more than spiritual and intellectual consistency.”
SOLUTION: The first step is realizing when our thinking and behaving doesn’t match how we are called by God to live. Too frequently, we allow the culture’s worldview to take the place of the Biblical worldview. This is so obvious as we view the balkanized political situation in America. The stance on a particular issue is too often determined by what your political party thinks rather than what the Bible says.
Christ demonstrated the act of speaking truth to power. If something is wrong, it’s wrong. An illustration comes to mind from many years ago while I taught a Sunday school lesson at a conservative, evangelical church. I mentioned the outrage many felt when President Clinton’s extramarital affairs were publicized. There was not such condemnation when that state’s U.S. senator, who happened to have an “R” by his name, was guilty of the same sin.
This is a link to the Cultural Research Center worldview report:
#christianworldview #biblicalworldview #christianfaith #faith
It’s Not Just The Young Leaving The Church
PROBLEM: For years the consistent lament from the old folks in the church has been many millennials were leaving Christianity. Now, most surveys during the last years do indicate a steady drop in these 27-42 year olds practicing the faith. The bigger problem for the church now is that this indifference and rejection is spreadingvto older Americans.
First for the younger ones: The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University published a report called Indifference to God, Jesus and the Bible Drives Millennials’ Faith. According to the report, “Among Millennials the label ‘Christian’ is not a statement of commitment to the namesake (Jesus Christ) or to embracing biblical beliefs and principles. Rather, that term has taken on the connotation of being a good person, regardless of religious beliefs.” The study’s author says millennials’ relative disinterest in religious faith “fits the young adult cultural ethos of ‘canceling’ institutions, ideologies and individuals that don’t fit with their personal expectations and perspectives.”
The Barna group reported in a 2019 study titled Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong that more one out of five Millennials have quit the faith, with another three out of ten call themselves Christians but aren’t part of a faith community.
The more disturbing trend is among the next older generations, the Generation Xers. A recent Wall Street Journal article Why Middle-Aged Americans Aren’t Going Back to Church illustrated the problem. “The percentage of people ages 39 to 57 who attended a worship service during the week, either in person or online, fell to 28% in 2023, down from 41% in 2020, according to a survey this year. This was the largest percentage-point drop of all age groups examined in the survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.” That’s the same percentage of the more often maligned millennials.
Solutions The Wall Street Journal article cited several reasons for the drop: Folks who got out of the habit during the pandemic, raising children and even those pesky “rigid” behavioral restrictions. The problem with these excuses: A higher percentage of older Americans have returned, that age group has always been raising children and those “rigid rules” haven’t changed for churches following traditional biblical interpretations. So, the answer has to be the church more effectively living out the faith so that those of all ages see the difference Christ makes in Believers’ lives.
Links to cited surveys:
Indifference to God, Jesus and the Bible Drives Millennials’ Faith.
Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong
New Post-Pandemic Research Shows How COVID Rocked America’s Faith
https://www.arizonachristian.edu/2023/06/14/new-post-pandemic-research-shows-how-covid-rocked-americas-faith/#:~:text=At the onset of the,infrequently or not at all.
You’re On Line: What’s Next?
One of the most impressive changes in reaction to the church shut down was how quickly more than 90% of US churches went to on-line services. The timing was good: The internet was in place, the equipment affordable and the technological know-how needed basic enough for even the smallest congregations to easily pivot. That kept members connected. Some small group, or Sunday School classes, also used the technology to keep on mission.
The question is: Is your church planning NOW how to use the technology to do a better job of fulfilling The Great Commission as more return to church? As an earlier Barna survey showed, one out of three former church goers have quit showing up in person or on line. Is your church staying connected? What can be done by The Post Covid Church to use the technology to expand your church mission to those who won’t come into your doors?
In this short video, learn how Haitian pastor Dr. Lucner Pierre was able to expand Bible studies through the internet and how it led to a dramatic increase in touching people and making disciples.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Lucner at bit.ly/PostCovidPodcast titled, “Lessons From Haiti”.
The pandemic has sped up change in our culture, including the lessening of the church’s influence. While America was steadily moving from its Judeo-Christian roots before the shutdown (with church attendance dropping and the number of people willing to admit they had no faith rapidly increasing to almost one-in-four) the pandemic has accelerated the shift to where we are now a post-Christian culture. There is no longer the cultural pressure to know and acknowledge the basic tenants of the faith. With a powerful push to limit or eliminate basic constitutional religious freedoms.
Rev. Jeff Wolheter has spent his career planting churches, and that means having a rich understanding of the culture. As he shares in this short video clip, the shift means more antagonism towards the church, but also an opportunity.
You can hear my conversation with Jeff, and discover useful information that every church leader can use, on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpocast titled “Building A Plane While Flying: Church Planting In A Pandemic”.
We Can’t Fear Thinking
The rich history of the Christian faith includes vigorous thinking, boasts prominent early scientists and the founding of some of the most prestigious colleges (such as Harvard). That fact is clouded today by the cultural stereotype of the evangelical Christian as an anti-science simpleton unwilling to ask difficult questions and unable to answer them. Unfortunately, as the church continues to lose its influence and political divisions widen, too many evangelicals are playing into that stereotype.
That attached article brings up some fair critiques. What a great time for The Post Covid Church to step in, and make sure members don’t just believe, but know what they believe.
“As The Men Go, So Goes The Church”
As churches reopen and ministries regather, David Dusek, founder of Rough Cut Men Ministries says no group is more important than the men. David’s ministry focuses on encouraging and equipping men to live their lives for Christ by getting them to talk about what’s really going on in their lives. That means The Post Covid Church must encourage men to connect and go deeper. It also means that church leaders must be more honest and transparent.
In this short video, Dusek explains how to get men more involved, and how some simple first steps can get men more connected.
You can listen to my entire conversation with David on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast “As The Men Go, So Goes The Church”.
Missing The Real Sexual Question
The current uproar about the “Equality Act” is a perfect illustration of the church’s waning ability to influence the culture. It’s a wake up call for The Post Covid Church to change the way it talks about sex.
The “Equality Act”, passed by the House, redefines “sex” to include “sexual orientation.” The effect will be to erase the differences between men and women—a scientific fact—for how one feels, or identifies.
So here we are, in less than a generation, with the definition of marriage turned on its head and now the idea of gender being tossed aside as irrelevant. Even if the bill doesn’t become law right now, just calmly expressing support for what was once called ‘traditional sexuality’ can get you banned, fired or worse.
John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has spent his career looking at the intersection of the church and culture. He says a lot of the blame can be set at the church’s doorstep: The inability to explain what i tmeans to be made in God’s image.
You can listen to my entire conversation with John on The Post Covid Church Podcast at bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Smartly Defending The Faith
As the attacks against classic Christianity become more aggressive, the challenge to defend the faith will become more important—and difficult. Fortunately, Greg Koukl has spent his professional life helping people do a better job thinking more clearing about their faith.
In this short video, the founder of “Stand To Reason” (str.org) explains that the first step to more effectively engage those questioning the faith is to copy that famous TV detective, Lt. Columbo.
Learn the other two steps on how to overcome objections to the Christian faith, and why the church must be more open to its owns believers doubts, on The Post Covid Church Podcast bit.ly/postcovidpodcast
Uh-Oh: Businesses Turbocharge “Inclusion”
The rapid secularization of America means those looking for their Christian faith to have an impact in the marketplace are facing an increasingly hostile reception. “Yes”, we’re told, “you can worship as you like (with pandemic restrictions in place of course) but in the name of tolerance, your faith must stay private.” As companies rush to prove they are appropriately “woke” in light of the social unrest unleashed by George Floyd’s killing, the vice will continue to tighten.
A good illustration of this rush to stay ahead of the secular mob is the latest establishment of a diversity czar, this time at Disney. Jenny Cohen is now Executive VP of Social Responsibility and she’ll report directly to the CEO Bob Chapek. Here’s part of the news release:
“Consumers, employees and investors are increasingly looking to companies to drive positive, impactful change in the world, and at Disney, our goal is to be as admired for our values and contributions to society as we are for the superb entertainment we create,” Chapek said. As a member of the company’s CEO Diversity & Inclusion Council, Cohen is also active in developing and implementing initiatives that support a representative and inclusive culture. (Emphasis added.)
Companies have tripped over themselves in commercials and news releases, illustrating their commitment to “diversity”, without ever explaining what that means. Is it racial, gender, identity, or viewpoint diversity the newly woke companies are championing? Well, I can assure you it ain’t the last one.
As earlier posts have illustrated, the twisting of the word “truth” has meant a silencing of viewpoints that even question the meaning of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory or LBGQ etc. “rights”. The impact of the silencing, and the refusal to look at what the rush to “diversity” means to religious liberty, is astounding.
I wouldn’t hold out hope that Ms. Cohen, in her role as EVP of Social Responsibility, will be overly concerned with the impact on religious liberty. I say that because I saw what Disney’s CEO in 2019, Bob Iger, threatened to do in Georgia because legislators that year had the audacity to pass a law that tightened restrictions on abortion. The law said it was illegal to abort a baby if the heartbeat was detected. Iger told Reuters news service, ”I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard.”
Can you imagine Iger threatening to shutdown its Broadway shows after New York threw open the doors to abortion on demand that same year? I suspect that there are plenty of Disney employees strongly opposed to New York’s measure, but somehow Iger didn’t share their anger with the press or threaten to leave.
Of course, Disney is still filming in Georgia. Tax credits trump “doing what’s right” I guess, even for the woke CEOs. Well, it made for nice headlines and made many Disney affinity groups giddy.
It is tougher to live out our lives in Christ facing the headwinds of ignorance, intolerance and out right hostility. Yet, even as Christ promised that would be the case, He also promised a Helper to guide Believers. How to respond?
- Listen. We’re too often quick to talk, and preach, and don’t bother hearing.
- Think. We’re too often quick to throw out our quick responses. What’s going on in that brother or sister’s life that is really the issue?
- Question. Probe deeper. “What do you mean when you say _______ ?”
- Follow Up. If we do 1-3, there will be a great opportunity to continue the conversation. And, hey, there might be important questions you don’t yet know how to answer. Great. Nothing wrong with saying, “Great question. I don’t know the answer. Let me find out and get back to you.”
- Know What You Believe. Are we prepared to sound like a committed, reasoned, informed follower of Christ, or just a bigot when defending the Christian worldview?
Upcoming posts will include information on how to engage the increasingly hostile culture and what the constitution’s promise of religious liberty means and how to more effectively defend it.
The Post Covid Church will face problems much greater than how we are to worship together on Sunday. The good news is, there is a powerful God on whose promises we can always depend. What a perfect time to be more prepared to share, and stand firm.
Prepare for Persecution
One of the byproducts of the pandemic shutdown has been the acceleration of steps to control the church. From forced closings to canceling orthodox Christian belief from social media, the push by secularists to force the faith out of the public square shows no sign of letting up.
For S. Michael Craven, one of the nation’s foremost experts on Christian worldview, this is both inevitable and good. In this short video, the Director of the Colson Fellows Program at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview explains that costing more to be a Christian means the death of “cultural Christianity” and, eventually, a stronger church.
You can listen to my entire interview with Michael on The Post Covid Church Podcast (“Prepare for Prosecution”) at bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Feelings Trumping Truth
We now see clearly what happens when the concept of truth is twisted beyond its meaning and feelings rule discourse: A major gatekeeper will silence truth if the source is from the wrong side of the ideological spectrum.
A recent post (“Can We Handle The Truth?” ) explained that “truth” doesn’t really mean what it means to the secularists who are trying to erase from the public square any faith-based influence. Rather than accepting the definition of truth that’s been historically accepted—that which conforms to reality—-many in power personalize truth, and therefore attempt to squash anything that may offend, even if it happens to be fact.
We now see it playing out in real time. With real consequences for The Post Covid Church.
Twitter locked out Focus on The Family’s The Daily Citizen publication for writing this about President Biden’s nominee to Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Rachel Levine:
“Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.”
Compare that to the Oxford Dictionaries definition of “transgender”
“Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and genderdoes not correspond with their birth sex.” (emphasis added)
Twitter, which hasn’t banned the Oxford Dictionary, took down the post and locked out The Daily Citizen for:
“Violating our rules against hateful conduct. You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
The tweet didn’t attack, harass or hate on Dr. Levine. It linked to an earlier story that used the same definition, and also reported on the doctor’s controversial role in Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 response as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Health. (Here’s a link to the story: https://dailycitizen.focusonthefamily.com/biden-to-nominate-controversial-transgender-doctor-for-assistant-health-and-human-services-secretary/
The tweet just stated the truth. The fact that Dr. Levine is transgendered had been trumpeted by plenty of progressive media outlets. So the offense was obviously this accurate description.
It’s especially galling in light of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s touting his company’s firm stand on freedom of expression. He told Wired magazine his purpose is to serve the public conversation,
“And that does take a stance around freedom of expression and defending freedom of expression as a fundamental human right….So we believe that we can only serve the public conversation, we can only stand for freedom of expression if people feel safe to express themselves in the first place.”
Had the deleted tweet NOT come from a group that happens to abide by historical Christian standards, would it have been banned? It’s clear that it’s the one speaking, not the statement, that earned banishment. One more example of those holding views at odds with the progressive culture not even being allowed to discuss their views. Hmmm. Where have we seen this play out before in history?????
As the definition of truth is reprogrammed and First Amendment rights restricted, what is The Post Covid Church to do?
Dr. Jim Denison, co-founder of Denison Forum, is an astute observer of the culture and a strong proponent of the Christian worldview. He had these three responses, as we seek to always speak the truth in love:
One: Make clear the fact that God loves all people, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Our language should always reflect his passion and compassion for all people. We are all broken and sinful (Romans 3:23). We are all in need of grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). As a result, we must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speech that slanders is sinful.
Two: Speak biblical truth with clarity and grace.
Our culture needs to hear God’s word on sexual identity and morality because his word is best for us and his will is “perfect” (Romans 12:2). We should assert that our beliefs “are true, not merely protected in law.”
Three: Pay the price of our convictions.
If (or when) orthodox biblical morality that has been affirmed for more than twenty centuries becomes castigated as “hate speech,” we can choose to be silenced or we can choose to be courageous. At that time, we should remember Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
However, we must love all people and speak truth with grace to claim this promise. If we are “persecuted” because our words and actions have been less than godly, we dishonor our Lord and hinder his kingdom.
Amen, Jim, for this biblically based wisdom as The Post Covid Church faces an increasingly aggressive and formidable enemy.
I’ll add one more thing The Post Covid Church must do: Initiate the conversation and quit playing just defense. I’ll have more on that in a later post.
What do you think? Comment below…..
Smarter Fighting For Religious Liberty
A recent post illustrated the importance of “Truth”…properly defined…..to the Christian Worldview. It’s critical that The Post Covid Church be able to engage the culture with much more than, “the Bible says it.” Those outside the faith consider the Bible simply a book of beliefs, fairy tales or worse. It’s critical that we be able to discuss critical issues from a Biblical Worldview with truth and facts on our side.
“If we fail to fight back in the court of public opinion against the claim that our beliefs are ‘bigoted,’ we will ultimately lose even in courts of law, where the soundness of our beliefs is supposedly irrelevant.”
The Wall Street Journal essay below from Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, explains why the religious liberty battle must be fought with more than the armaments of faith.
Religious Liberty Isn’t Enough
Cultural conservatives also need to defend our views, which are scientifically sound and popular.
By Ryan T. Anderson
Wall Street Journal/ Opinion
President Biden’s pledge to heal and unify seems to mean giving the far left everything it demands in the culture wars. Conservatives therefore must resist. Yet in doing so we must avoid the trap of framing every debate as if it were about religious liberty.
Religious liberty is important, but it’s only part of the story. As the Biden administration advances a divisive and extreme social agenda, our response can’t simply be a polite request to be left alone. We need to oppose the left’s agenda on the merits. It’s the principled thing to do, and it will be good politics given where the American people actually are on the issues.
Take Mr. Biden’s decision to overturn the Mexico City policy and call for repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Those policies long prevented taxpayers from funding—and thus being complicit in—elective abortions, overseas and at home. But protecting pro-life people’s right to dissent isn’t the most important reason to oppose abortion funding. The complicity matters because killing unborn babies is profoundly unjust. Conservatives’ refusal to fund abortions communicates that message, which is why the left has turned against popular consensus to oppose the Hyde Amendment—including Mr. Biden, who caved to pressure after supporting Hyde for 40 years.
Or consider Mr. Biden’s approach to gender ideology: “Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.” By his own admission, he’s not looking for common ground—as reflected in his day-one executive order directing that all citizens, including children, be recognized by their declared gender in federal law.
Conservatives have no choice but to push back. And here, too, the terrain to defend is not primarily about religious liberty, or religion at all. Children feeling discomfort with their bodies shouldn’t be told the lie that they’re “trapped in the wrong body,” nor should adults pump them full of puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones. Doing so is unethical medicine, a violation of the bodily integrity of children—whether or not those kids or their parents or doctors are religious.
Likewise for preserving female athletics. Secular and religious high-school girls are equally interested in the fair competition that is undermined when boys who “identify” as girls compete against girls. And it isn’t only churchgoing girls who prefer not to share showers and locker rooms with boys. The main reason for separation is not religious qualms, but biology.
The left would love to frame these issues as if they pitted reason and science against superstition. But on all of these issues social conservatives are on the side of the biological facts. The Democratic Party and the left are the science deniers. To be sure, Christians believe the historic religious teachings on these issues are anything but superstitious: The scientific point of view confirms the biblical teaching that humans are created male and female. It requires no faith to know that a boy who “identifies” as a girl isn’t one and shouldn’t be allowed into private female spaces.
Likewise, although Christians believe all people are made in God’s image, it requires no faith to see that an unborn child is a child. Even atheists post ultrasound images of their kids. When they shoot off pink confetti for the gender reveal, they reveal that they know biological sex isn’t “assigned at birth.” It’s time to make the left follow the science.
Conservatives shouldn’t frame these as sectarian religious issues, litigating them purely in terms of religious liberty. Even when it makes sense to argue these issues as matters of religious liberty, conservatives shouldn’t pretend to be agnostic about the truth of our perspective. We’ll have the best shot at winning fights over abortion restrictions or child sex-change procedures when conservatives are willing to assert that their beliefs are true, not merely protected in law.
Lawyers will have to make specifically legal arguments, rooted in the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the separation of powers or the Administrative Procedure Act, none of which turn on the truth of the belief seeking protection. But the rest of us needn’t speak like lawyers. If we fail to fight back in the court of public opinion against the claim that our beliefs are “bigoted,” we will ultimately lose even in courts of law, where the soundness of our beliefs is supposedly irrelevant. If basic truths of human nature are redefined as religious bigotry, they will be excised from society, in court and out.
The reality is that there is a culture war in the U.S., and conservatives aren’t the aggressors. While the moniker “culture warrior” seems to be applied only to those on the right, we aren’t the ones who imposed abortion on demand up to and even during birth, forced Catholic nuns to pay for abortifacients, redefined marriage, harassed evangelical bakers, or declared it “unlawful discrimination” to refuse to put a confused child on puberty-blocking drugs. These salvos came from the left. Conservatives have been playing defense.
But a strategy based only on religious liberty won’t work in the long run. Americans need to figure out how to coexist peacefully on these issues. But the answer isn’t for our side to forfeit the fight about the truth by pleading only to be left alone.
Mr. Anderson is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
A Christian Said WHAT?
Sir Isaac Newton famously concluded that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The reason Newton’s Third Law of Motion is so well known by the least scientific among us is that it applies to all things in life. Including faith. And politics. We see it playing out in front of us now, as a new President does/undoes things the last President championed. (Elections have consequences….)
“As someone who identifies as a born-again Christian, he believes he has to tell the truth.”
We see it play out too as fallout from the Trump inspired insurrection, carried out in part by rioters carrying Christian flags, splits the evangelical world right before our eyes.
“The devil’s ultimate trick for Christianity … is embarrassing the church.”
Read about one born-again Christian who dared to stand on his convictions, speaking truth to power, and discovered that those who call themselves Christians aren’t exactly acting like Christ…..
Can We Handle The Truth?
The powerful and unequivocal support for “truth” from President Biden was certainly welcome, but the excitement must be tempered because our culture has stripped the word of its meaning, and therefore its power. One of the biggest jobs The Post Covid Church has is establishing truth as a foundational element within its walls and outside in the mission field.
“There is truth and there are lies,” the President said during his inauguration. “Lies told for profit and for power. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Could it be that the postmodern insistence that there is no absolute truth, that all is relative, has now been dumped into the trash can of history by this Democratic President, who has recently embraced most things woke?
Uh, forgive me if I’m not optimistic. But, this provides a crucial, and widening, opportunity The Post Covid Church must embrace.
The final, not subtle at all, indication that truth had left the building was in 2016, on the heels of President Trump’s election, when Oxford Dictionaries chose Post-Truth as the word of the year: An adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Of all people, the Washington Post’s Deputy Editorial Page Marcus wrote that December a scathing column, with crocodile tears, bemoaning the lack of truth coming to DC:
“Welcome to — brace yourself for — the post-truth presidency.‘Facts are stubborn things,’ said John Adams in 1770, defending British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, ‘and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.’ Or so we thought, until we elected to the presidency a man consistently heedless of truth and impervious to fact-checking.”
I distinctly remember chuckling as I read Marcus’ column. “Welcome to the club! So glad to have you,” I thought. For the progressives were at the forefront of postmodernism; rejecting absolute truth and embracing the comforting era of relativism.
Oh, but Marcus wasn’t really there. Her idea of “truth” was simply a metaphorical club, a powerful one indeed, with which to bash the president to be. Now, her main thesis any Christian must uphold: Truth isn’t just proper, its biblical! As Christ Himself declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” So, the repeated, despicable rejection of truth that our former President displayed was a proper area of critique. And one which his supporters hypocritically ignored.
The bigger story is that President Biden, columnist Marcus and many, many others don’t really mean “truth” must take center stage again, and knock relativism away. No, “truth” has been, well, re-defined.
You may recall Sen. Cory Booker praising Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford for sharing with the world her unsubstantiated charges. Charges Sen. Booker called, “her truth.” Hmmm. Nothing about “his truth”? Never mind. Truth isn’t what Senator Booker meant.
And truth doesn’t have a pronoun!
Truth is too hard. The fad that’s escaped from academia and has infested our culture like Covid-19 is Critical Theory; the Marxist inspired philosophy that focuses exclusively on “power structures” and puts each of us in a box: Oppressed or Oppressor. It means some topics can’t even be discussed and debated if you’re in the wrong box.
No, to point out that gender, for example, is a scientifically provable fact, will cost you your job and reputation in a growing number of places. Including lots of businesses. So, it’s not really “truth”—- it’s “truth self defined”. By feelings.
Washington Post columnist Marcus is a Harvard graduate. I so wish she’d paid more attention to two important guests who gave culture defining speeches at her alma mater. In his 1978 commencement address, exiled anti-communist Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn began,
“Harvard’s motto is ‘Veritas.’ Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of bitter truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.”
His scathing critique of the consequences to America earned him boos. Speaking “truth to power” does that sometimes.
IN 1991 convicted Watergate felon and Prison Fellowship Founder Chuck Colson addressed the Harvard Business School on the heels of the rampant scandals engulfing American businesses. Marcus’ own Washington Post, Time and The New Republic—-hardly guardians of the Judeo-Christian ethic—ran stories asking where common decency had gone, why the lines of right and wrong had been crossed so often and fretted about the ethical malaise engulfing the nation.
Colson’s speech, “Why Harvard Can’t Teach Ethics”, explained that the institution, founded by the church, had instead embraced moral relativism and abandoned teaching the concept that without a proper foundation of right and wrong there can never be ethics. Colson wasn’t booed, but met with a figurative shrug of the shoulders.
Where did truth go?
It got shoved into a corner. Nancy Pearcey in her powerful book Total Truth explained it well: “Universities that had been founded by Christian schools, like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, began pushing theology into a separate department….Religion was being removed from the curriculum, where we teach public knowledge, and relegated to the private sphere of subjective experience.”
Truth, as a foundational aspect of the Christian faith, was thought of as just part of the religious experience. It had nothing to do with the sciences and the verifiable world. And evangelical churches played along. Historian Richard Hofstadter put it succinctly: “The churches withdrew from intellectual encounters with the secular world, gave up the idea that religion is a part of the whole life of intellectual experience, and often abandoned the field of rational studies on the assumption that they were the natural province of science alone.”
So here we are. As the wreckage from the DC riot was carted away, The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker warned those tempted to defend the insurrection in any way.
“This equivalence play, or ‘whataboutism,’ can, if we’re not careful, neuter all efforts to hold our leaders’ actions to some objective standard. It inflicts on all judgments the terminal paralysis of moral relativism. As with the widespread undermining of objective factual truth in recent years, so the erosion of the idea of objective moral truth steadily weakens the foundations of political and civil community and softens us up for a final descent into the invented trust of totalitarianism.”
So, yes, it was wonderful to hear our new President steadfastly defend truth. The tough work: Restoring truth’s rightful definition, and for The Post Covid Church, fulfilling its mission to model how truth is lived out.
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth—-only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.” —- C.S. Lewis/Mere Christianity
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“Why Did God Put You On Earth?”
As churches scramble through shutdowns and technical challenges to stay connected, it’s also the time when many are reassessing their walk with Christ. In this short video, Kelly Kannwischer, co-founder and CEO of Future Church Co, explains how her company helps Christians find their calling.
Kelly talks more about calling, and steps church leaders need to take now as we face a very different future on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Making Sense of Today’s Chaos in “The Story”
The Christian faith is so much more than having our sins forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, it’s when we think so narrowly that we are in danger of missing out on how to make sense of the present chaos we face.
John Stonestreet, the host of Breakpoint and President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, emphasizes the importance of Christians knowing what “The Story” is and how the current circumstances fit into it. In light of the deeply divisive political, social and yes, medical times, Stonestreet says, “American Christians have a history of losing the Story in the chaos of the moment.” You’ll gain a lot from this short video.
You can listen to my entire conversation with John on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Getting Back In
It’s up to The Post Covid Church to reengage with a culture that is rapidly not just turning from faith, but is actively and aggressively trying to smothered it. It’s looking to make sure that faith is kept inside a building on Sunday and that is has no impact Monday through Saturday.
That’s the basic illustration of secularism.
When the reality of absolute truth is jettisoned for the guiding force of feelings, the foundational beliefs that were once assumed to be bedrock institutions——such as the ability to defend your unpopular opinion or the sanctity of contracts—-are sacrificed on the altar of conformity.
A sure sign that the train is running off the rails: The quick and unquestioned bowing to the cultural winds of progressivism by corporate America. Which CEO is willing to put her hand up and say, “Uh, can we discuss this?” Naw. Not worth the effort.
“The secularists and atheists didn’t overthrow the culture. The church abandoned it.”S. Michael Craven/Colson Center for Christian Worldview
As Michael Craven attests, the secular worldview has filled a void left by a church that has been too comfortable in its holy huddles and has not bothered to see the Gospel as much more than just a personal plan of salvation. In fact, of course, it’s much more than that. Look in the Bible.
If The Post Covid Church hopes to regain its place of influence in the culture, it must change. How much? Where? The key for leaders, is effectively answering:
What must The Post Covid Church do so that it can effectively answer the challenge?
Check this website for so many ideas!
More Than Content
Making disciples in the new, forced digital environment is a challenge, but one expert says it can also be a blessing. Dr. Elaine Friedrich is Director of Digital Discipleship for Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church. In this short video, she explains how simple, but creative uses of the new digital technology have strengthened important bonds.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Friedrich on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Doing Discipleship RIGHT
What if the way you’ve done something all your life turns out to not be wrong? George Barna has spent decades researching Christianity in America and he’s come to the conclusion that there is only one proven way to effectively disciple. See the answer in this short video.
Listen to my conversation with Dr. Barna at The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast
The Digital Revolution: Making Disciples
In the middle of a crisis strong leaders are thinking forward, counting on more disruption and planning for a very different future. Dr. Elaine Friedrich’s career experience blended ministry and higher education leadership into her current position as Director of Digital Discipleship for Mt. Bethel United Methodist in Marietta GA.
She is uniquely positioned to help churches of all sizes see that they need to shift focus and resources if they want to stay connected with their members and fulfill the great commission: reaching “the least, the last and the lost.” In this short video, Dr. Friedrich emphasizes that for The Post Covid Church, this is a time of OPPORTUNITY, not despair.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Friedrich on The Post Covid Church Podcast, bit.ly/postcovidpodcast.
Look In The Mirror
The overwhelming consensus of The Post Covid Church contributors is the need for all Christians to use this time of upheaval to re-think how we “do church”. It also means taking the time to look at WHY Christians are losing influence in our culture.
Leave your comments:
Why The Widening Racial Gap?
Why the Widening Racial Gap?
A previous post (arrived in the Survey section) illustrates the widening racial gap among Christians, showing that fewer whites think America has a race problem and are less motivated to address racial injustice. Group member Gary Ratcliffe is not surprised by the results. In fact, it doesn’t seem any who commented were, which is quite an indictment of our faith. Why is this?Here are my thoughts:
- Language. What worldview is more attuned to the idea of social justice than Christianity? Look at the teachings: All humans made in the image of God! Clear instructions on loving not just our neighbors, but our enemies. Yes, the Bible is filled with folks not living up to God’s standards (not a smart move if the book is one of fables trying to spread propaganda, but that’s for another post!) The foundational beliefs of the faith focus on God’s justice and His call for us to follow suit. Unfortunately, when a term is highjacked, and the meaning twisted to reject the idea of sin, forgiveness and repentance, there is going to be conflict. It doesn’t help when the Social Justice Warriors refuse to listen, consider and engage, but only shut down, demean and attack. Ah, but what a perfect opportunity for the Christian model of social justice to rise. Black and white Christians must stand firm and not be cowed into abandoning the true meaning of such a powerful term.
- Timing. Group member Warren Porter put it well with his comment: “There are those who don’t want racial conciliation, preferring a wedge issue distracting people from real problems.” Far, far too often followers of Christ are quick to embrace their political “side”, while denigrating even biblical ideas from the “others”. We are in the middle of a season of hyper partisanship, when political affiliation colors everything, even faith.
- Weakness. You know what I mean when I mention “Yes, But” sermons. Oh, a few minutes telling the white parishioners not to be racist, and perhaps some historical context and apologies. The remaining time is spent critiquing an opposing worldview—such as Critical Race Theory: Every group in an identity box, some races evil, even questioning this worldview only proves you are racist, etc. It’s certainly the place to contrast the worldviews. Unfortunately, the disproportionate time spent on the “others” means the “Yes, But” sermons do little to help: Everyone gets riled up about the other team and leaves unchallenged, unchanged and unwilling to look intently in the mirror.
- Disinterest. To really make a difference, to really try and build bridges, will take a lot of hard work. Commitment. Prioritization. Leadership. From black and white pastors. Taking chances. Losing members. Offending others. Having tough discussions. Listening.
The Christian worldview of sin, repentance and restoration is the only one that can truly tackle this issue. What a chance for the church to stand out so the world has to pay attention, and want what we are offering. It will take a big change for The Post Covid Church to live up to God’s idea of social justice. But, does any other worldview have a chance to truly make social justice a reality?
What do you think?
Evangelicals as Zoo Exhibits
Evangelicals As Zoo Exhibits
That’s how it feels sometimes as I read articles about evangelical Christians written by folks who have only recently “found some” by traveling from one of the coasts to the middle of America, or heaven forbid, the South.
Does Your Dogma Live Loudly Within You?
The search for these strange folks was reignited with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Clips of incredulous senators of a liberal bent questioning her about her conservative Catholic beliefs during hearings before her 2017 confirmation to the Court of Appeals were replayed, as others looked at her affiliation with the charismatic, multi-denominational group “People of Praise”.
Reporters from the New York Times climbed down from their mid-town Manhattan tower to visit the Midwest and find out what caused Senator Feinstein to utter the memorable phrase: “Your dogma lives loudly within you.” We got to read that her Christian conservatism was “subtly different” from the other Republican-appointed members of the Supreme Court.
Hmm. Evidence? “The People of Praise” group “has a strict view of human sexuality that embraces once-traditional gender roles”, with a life spent “in a cocoon of like-minded thinking that in many areas runs counter to the view of a majority of Americans.” One example: So many kids! (Seven, including a child with Down syndrome and two adopted from Haiti. Oh my…)
How Would The New York Times Portray Our Lives?
This is illuminating, I think, in a good way. It should make all Christians step back and wonder: Would a New York Times reporter looking at our lives say we lived it in a way that contrasts with a majority of America? If not, then we have some explaining to do.
That’s where The Post Covid Church must stand out. It should focus on making sure all its members’ basic, foundational views and behavior contrast sharply with what is now a post-Christian culture. And a more antagonistic one!
We are called to stand out, in a special way. To live by our dogma—-defined by Merriam-Webster as a “body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church”. Christ promised it would cost us. He also promised a life more full than any the world could give us. Sometimes God uses those outside the “circle” to bring light within. Thank you New York Times for providing this opportunity to reflect, pray and act!
Preparing For an Onslaught
The purpose of The Post Covid Church is to share ideas and concepts to help strengthen congregations and make them more influential in the culture. That culture in America is increasingly antagonistic towards faith, especially the evangelical Christian faith.
The consensus now: It’s OK if you have that faith stuff, but you must keep it to yourselves. Unfortunately, the modern church has played into this trap, with a push to be, as pastor/author Mark Sayers says, relevant instead of resilient.
The forces fighting against the church are growing stronger and best-selling author Rod Dreher says The Post Covid Church must take radical steps now to be prepared.
Read this interview and leave your comments.
You Won’t See These Racial Reconciliation Announces During NFL Games
The NFL has turned on a dime: From quashing protests to encouraging players to tell us all what they think about injustice everywhere. As anyone who watched even a few minutes of the NFL knows, the league and networks are playing along, proudly showing banners of support. I’m willing to bet we won’t be seeing any testimonials like these:
We in the NFL are committed to making sure everyone in American knows that black lives matter. And that of course includes unborn black lives. Did you know that half the aborted children in New York City are babies of color? Let’s all stand together for the most innocent and unprotected and remember, unborn black lives matter. If you’re pregnant and think you’re alone, you’re not. Here’s how to find a group of caring, loving people near you who are here to help…you and your baby….
All the studies show that a child raised with a married mother and father, no matter what race or color, is significantly more likely to thrive and stay out of trouble. More likely to graduate from high school. Less likely to suffer from depression. Less likely to be poor, commit crime, dropout of school or be homeless. So, let’s make our communities stronger America. Let’s commit to raise our children in stable homes with a married mom and dad. Do you need help strengthening your marriage? Here are organizations near you who will help….
Racism and hate won’t go away through, well racism and hate! The only way to fulfill American’s promise is through repentance, reconciliation and love. We won’t solve this problem by putting us all in boxes based on our skin color, ethnicity or sexual preference. Or preaching that one color is evil, the other a victim and the divide will only be closed through silent obedience to “wokeness” Only a life following God will solve this problem. I urged you to look to Christ…to surrender your life to Someone greater than us. That will lead us to true peace and equality. Here’s how to find a church near you……
The sad part is that hundreds if not thousands of NFL players, black and white, will quietly nod in agreement with at least some of these “radical” ideas. What would happen if any player, executive or TV employee dare say it publicly? Not all Christians will agree with all three, but wouldn’t it be nice to have alternative voices in the mix?
The “cancel culture” is effectively keeping Christ-centered thought quiet in the public sphere. THAT’s why The Post Covid Church must stand firmly and lovingly in the gap. We cannot throw up our hands and retreat. So what does that mean?
- A recent post showed that 1 out of 3 evangelicals reject Christ as God, believing He was just a “good teacher”. The church has to do a better job making sure members know what they believe.
- “Faith without works is dead”, as James famously wrote. If followers of Christ aren’t working for Christ, what does it matter?
- 1 out of 3 quit worshipping since the shutdown. The church has to aggressively reach out and prove the power of Christ is worth the effort.
- Church leaders must also take a chance, risk alienating members, and reach across racial lines so black and white churches are fully engaged, listening to each other and becoming the hands and feet of Christ together.
If The Post Covid Church doesn’t illustrate what’s in the Bible it follows, and emulate Christ its leader, the “cancel culture” will have every reason to shut it up and worship at the altar of the “woke”.
A Lesson from Sally
Hurricane Sally’s 100+ MPH winds easily toppled old, established trees. A closer look, however, shows these giants had relatively shallow, small roots. Why? South Alabama is among the rainiest regions in the U.S. The trees don’t have to “try” real hard to tap vital nourishment.
It’s an apt lesson for The Post Covid Church. Recent posts highlight surveys that illustrate the shallowness of belief, even among evangelicals. It’s time for us to lengthen our scriptural roots,
The shocking numbers below show that American pastors have grown much more pessimistic about the impact of this pandemic on the faith life of their members. Please comment about how YOUR faith has changed.
Foundational Beliefs: Quickly Dissolving
A recent post highlighted research from Ligonier Ministries/Lilfeway research that showed 3 out of 10 evangelicals believe Christ was just a good teacher, not God. Now, of course, the divinity of Christ is a cornerstone belief of the Christian faith. To reject that is to, well, reject the faith.
What do you expect, however, if the church doesn’t push back against a culture that increasingly rejects the idea of absolute truth? Here’s where we are, based on another survey from a few months ago: Just a few years ago three out of four Americans had a biblically informed view of God, now only half do.Even more proof that The Post Covid Church must think about more than disinfectant and masks when it re-gathers…..
The Answer to All These Questions
These are the perfect tumultuous times for Christ’s church to lean in, saying “WE have the answers.” As the pandemic-raked populace asks ‘why?’, the injustice seen by too few for too long now in the open and the comfortable American lifestyle enjoyed by so many rocked, The Post Covid Church must let the truth be known. Leaders need to make this a priority as the church regathers, or we will lose more of our already shrinking influence in the culture.
What other worldview can answer the traumatizing questions now surrounding all of us?
This means The Post Covid Church body has to not only understand the Word, and how it impacts life, but also be willing to stand, listen and share. We can’t sit back and wait. The world is screaming for these answers.The Bible believing followers of Christ can too easily be in a defensive crouch these days. Or worse, seen as irrelevant by those in power and those searching for meaning. With church doors closed, and Believers scattered, too few churches are answering the challenge aggressively.
This is an opportunity for The Post Covid Church members to engage. To make a concerted effort to get out of the safe corners where we all agree with each other and lean in (with social distance in mind)! Ask:
- What do you feel is the solution to __(fill in the blank)____?
- How has that solution worked in the past?
- What will make it work this time?
- What ideas do you have to help build bridges?
- Is there room for love, even for those you don’t like?
- What does that love look like?
- Can people change?
- Can people forgive?
You can see where all these questions can easily lead. To the one worldview that does provide solutions to what ails us.I sat with a skeptical man who long ago walked away from his faith and discussed various worldviews and what is wrong in the world. For two hours we respectfully shared ideas. No, he hasn’t returned to Christ. But, he did feel comfortable enough to thank me for my company and to share with me a recent hurt. A man, thinking my new friend was out of earshot, referred to him in a contemptuous tone as “that atheist”. He chuckled to me, “I’m officially an agnostic”, but the hurt was obvious.Is he persuaded that the Christian worldview is the only answer to these problems rocking our world? Not yet, but I believe he’s a little closer.
Looking At The Critical Issues Through The Christian Lens
The recent US Supreme Court decision expanding the definition of sex in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gay and transexual individuals provides one more example of the tectonic plate-like shift in American culture. The decision was not directly related to any religious organization. It is, however, a pointed reminder that as The Post Covid Church struggles to return in full form, it must be prepared to engage the culture in an informed, loving way.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” – Abraham Kuyper
The Post Covid Church must be engaged in all of the cultural issues of the day. The demonstrations for racial justice, and how “justice” fits the Biblical mandate, is a perfect example. So too, the use of military force oversees. The role of Christians in the political process. Governmental forced closing of churches. How the expanding rights of individuals impact the First Amendment’s promise of the free exercise of religion.
The Bible provides guidance in every phase of life. Is the Bible the inspired Word of God, or a self help suggestion book with replaceable options?
Is the church called to challenge, and disciple, or is it here to reinforce pre-existing feelings and political positions?There is no better time for Christians to re-focus on what it means to be a church, and what, as Believers in Christ, it means to follow Him. What a great time for The Post Covid Church to remember what Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson said about our faith: “Genuine Christianity is a way of seeing, comprehending and acting in right relationship to all reality. It is a worldview.”The world is hungry for answers in an increasingly stressful and confusing time. Christianity makes sense of it all, but only if the members are discipled.
Developing a Christian Worldview More Critical Than Re-Opening Church Doors
While more Christians across the nation cautiously return to public worship this weekend, the controversy over forced closings promises to play out long after a Covid-19 vaccine is discovered. The vast majority of church leaders compliantly agreed with government edicts for the safety of parishioners, but many state and local government actions clearly took aim at the First Amendment.
How else to rationalize a governor deeming a liquor store “essential” while forcing, under threat of arrest, churches to close?
Members and leaders of The Post Covid Church must think hard about the accelerating challenges to faith in the wake of the pandemic.Criminal citations, suits in multiple states and conflicting outcomes in various judicial jurisdictions preview cultural battles to face The Post Covid Church.
That hostility and antagonism has increased thanks to a growing, more aggressive secular power base. As Christians return to the pews, it’s critical that church leadership does more than provide social distancing and extra hand sanitizer. It must also help the flock understand and fully embrace what a Christian worldview means; interpreting life through the lens of a worldview based on the Christian faith, enabling believers to engage with an increasingly hostile culture.