What Is the State of the Church?
American Pastors Network Hears from Researcher George Barna on Special Conference Call to Equip Pastors for Changing Culture
PHILADELPHIA—The annual State of the Union address allows Americans to get a snapshot of the nation, as well as lets them in on the plans of the president for the country.
But what about the state of the church? Pastors see a weekly snapshot of their own church, but the bigger picture of the church as a whole may be more elusive.
The American Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net) recently welcomed renowned social science researcher George Barna for a special conference call geared toward pastors that allowed them to hear Barna’s research about beliefs and attitudes of Americans.
“Perhaps no one has a finger on the pulse of American views, beliefs and attitudes more than George Barna,” said APN president Sam Rohrer. “Pastors were enlightened, motivated and, in some cases, alarmed at the positions of many Americans—even Christians. Christianity is being challenged, and faith is being redefined by Americans. For example, as George Barna shared, most don’t agree in salvation by grace alone, in the Holy Spirit or in an Orthodox God. Most don’t define success in life as having anything to do with their relationship with God. And fewer numbers identify as theologically conservative or born again. Shockingly low numbers have a true biblical worldview, and the segment growing the fastest is that of the ‘nones.’
“At this crucial time in our culture, it is imperative that pastors wake up, because religious leadership is faltering,” Rohrer continued. “A large majority of theologically conservative pastors refuse to teach congregations how biblical principles relate to most social and political principles. As a result, this has silenced theologically conservative Christians, who won’t talk about these issues because they haven’t been taught how to think about them. Based on the incredible information George Barna provided to our network of pastors, there is tremendous opportunity for the church to be salt and light in a growing world of darkness.”
Barna, a frequent guest on APN’s radio program “Stand in the Gap Today” and author of the new book, “The Day Christians Changed America,” also told pastors that while Americans have seen several positives since the election—such as a strong economy and a strengthened military—many have grave concerns. These include a lack of national unity, purpose and common vision; racial division; morality and values moving in the wrong direction; and the performance of the government.
He added that many have been awakened to these societal problems, as well as to the reshaping of views in terms of politics and morals, and there is much work to be done.
For example, Barna shared, a rising number of adults (40 percent) prefer socialism to capitalism. Traditional institutions have lost Americans’ trust, such as the media and government. Morality is being reshaped, especially in younger generations, with more saying these once taboo issues are now acceptable: divorce, sex before marriage as morally acceptable; gambling; LGBT relationships, abortion and sex between teenagers.
Barna added that many are turning to the church and wondering why is it not more effective in these issues. The researcher says it is a matter of a changing church mission. When asked what makes their church “successful,” pastors cited these five factors: 1) attendance, 2) money raised, 3) programs offered, 4) staff hired and 5) square footage.
“Jesus didn’t die for any of those things,” Barna said, adding that perhaps even those who are leading the nation’s churches are shifting their focus regarding what success is, which could be why churchgoers aren’t concerned with bearing fruit or deepening their commitment, but rather, about happiness and comfort.
The American Pastors Network’s radio ministry, “Stand in the Gap,” which includes the daily, one-hour “Stand in the Gap Today” program, which is heard on more than 425 stations nationwide and live from noon to 1 p.m. EST at American Pastors Network.com; click on the orange “Listen Live” button on the right-hand side of the webpage or find a station here. “Stand in the Gap Minute” and “Stand in the Gap Weekend” are also part of the radio ministry.
View the media page for APN here, which also details information about “Stand in the Gap.” For more information on APN, visit www.AmericanPastorsNetwork.net, its Facebook page or follow APN’s Twitter feed, @AmericanPastors. To form a state chapter of APN, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.