If you are keeping score, you’ll notice that this is listed as “part 2” but I have not posted a “part 1.” We’ve been doing a follow along series about prayer in small group. In a previous study, I talked about God’s will and how you know you are praying in it. I may post it later. I may not. Either way, here’s the lesson we are doing for January 24, 2016.
In scripture, it states that it is God’s desire that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 4:10, 2 Peter 3:9). Yet, some people only dabble with faith. Perhaps some are nominal Christians but many others waiver and never commit at all.
What is a nominal Christian? Is there really such a thing?
People disagree on the meaning of the term. According to the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE), which was first organized by Billy Graham in 1974, a nominal Christian is someone who is “a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord” and “may be a practising or non-practising church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian.” (Note the British spellings). Reform theologians disagree saying all baptized believers enter into a covenant relationship with God and, therefore, cannot be nominal. You are either practicing your faith or you are “wicked and faithless Christians.” The LCWE goes on to say nominal Christians exist anywhere a church is more than one generation old.
Does it really take more than one generation for people to “play church”?
In The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis says “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
Discuss the idea of that book.
We’ve discussed God’s Will and free will. Some people choose, deliberately, to ignore God’s call. Some, according to LCWE, participate in church regularly. Once you have been given a taste of Heaven, through God’s word, what can make you choose otherwise?
In the Methodist church, we teach that Grace is available to everyone and it is working in our lives even before we realize it. God is always working to draw us near to Him. Grace is free. Grace is ever present. Grace is hard to accept for many. Why is Grace so hard to accept?
The Barna Group, a Christian research organization, has named the Anniston/Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area as the second most Bible-minded city in America. Chattanooga is the most Bible-minded. What does that mean? According to the website
“Barna ranks the nation’s top media markets based on their level of Bible engagement. Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded.”
We live in one of the most “Bible-minded” markets in the country. That’s awesome, right? Let’s put it in perspective. The Birmingham market—ranked number two in the nation—scores 51%. Slightly more than half of our population reports reading something in the Bible during the week and considers it accurate. We, along with Chattanooga (52%) lead the country but we really—as a community—would only qualify as nominal Christians. Could this explain why people pop in and drop out when it comes to church membership?
Barna research also shows that 78% of Americans claim to be Christian but, in another study, 44% qualify as “Post Christian.” What does that mean?
To qualify as “post christian” a person had to identify with 60% (9 or more) of the following beliefs:
- Do not believe in God
- Identify as atheist or agnostic
- Disagree that faith is important in their lives
- Have not prayed to God (in the last year)
- Have never made a commitment to Jesus
- Disagree the Bible is accurate
- Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
- Have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
- Agree that Jesus committed sins
- Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
- Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
- Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
- Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
- Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
- Do not participate in a house church (in the last year)
Just to reiterate, 44% of Americans agree with, at least, nine of the above 15 points.
We’re at 51%—slightly more than half—in the “Bible-minded” category. There are churches, in our market, who go years without a baptism. Somewhere along the way, we have lost our brand—ceased to appear authentic. How do we turn this around? (I said “brand” on purpose).