Did you know that 10% of church goers in America believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife? That really should not surprise us, since less than 20% of “church goers” will attend Sunday school this week. A lack of biblical knowledge in churches seems to be a sign of the times.
Popular Christian researcher George Barna claims people are soft when it comes to committing to God. “Americans are willing to expend some energy in religious activities such as attending church and reading the Bible, and they are willing to throw some money in the offering basket. Because of such activities, they convince themselves that they are people of genuine faith. But when it comes time to truly establishing their priorities and making a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, and to allowing Him to change their character and lifestyle, most people stop short. We want to be ‘spiritual’ and we want to have God’s favor, but we’re not sure we want Him taking control of our lives and messing with the image and outcomes we’ve worked so hard to produce” (www.barna.org - April 18, 2006).
As frustrating as this may be for church leaders, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we seeking ways to reverse this trend or are we contributing to the problem?” It seems churches have resorted to entertaining the masses instead of educating. You may be more likely to get a drama or extravaganza when you “go to church” than a Bible class or a sermon. In fact, a local news station recently ran a story on a church that had replaced all preaching with plays.
Jesus was faced with a similar dilemma during His ministry. He knew people were not following Him for the right reasons. So, He refused to feed them. “Most assuredly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for food which perishes, but for food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:26-27).
Instead of seeking to emulate theaters and concert halls, maybe churches would have better attendance and more commitment if they to looked and acted like a church. In its infancy, Christianity was grounded in teaching and preaching the gospel of Christ. Young evangelists were admonished to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:2). Why was there such an emphasis on education? Because the gospel, and only the gospel, “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
In conclusion, this may be the most disturbing statistic. About one-third of Americans who describe themselves as “born again” believe that if a person is good enough they can earn a place in heaven. That is scary! Many in churches do not understand the most fundamental biblical doctrine – grace. No one will ever be “good enough” to go to heaven (Ephesians 2:4-9). The gospel is “good news” for this very reason. Jesus died in our place and then was raised from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8). We are saved by His blood not our own goodness (Romans 6:3-10).
However, if we do not preach it, people will not learn it. Biblical faith begins with the word of God (Romans 10:17). That is why the apostle Peter said, “Beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18). (All statistics from www.barna.org)