According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Barna Group: Why Do Some Millennials Stay Connected to Church?

 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/635-5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church#.UkTwGU_D-9J

by Barna Group
September 17, 2013

September 17, 2013 – Everyone has an opinion about why Millennials are leaving the church. It's a controversial topic, one that Barna Group's researchers have been examining for a decade.
 
The topic was reignited this summer when blogger and author Rachel Held Evans wrote a piece about why Millennials leave church. Her editorial struck a nerve, sparking response pieces all across the web and generating more than 100,000 social media reactions in the first week alone.
 
Yet whatever one’s personal view of the reasons behind Millennials staying or going, one thing is clear: the relationship between Millennials and the Church is shifting. Barna Group’s researchers have been examining Millennials’ faith development since the generation was in its teen years—that is, for about a decade. During that time, the firm has conducted 27,140 interviews with members of the Millennial generation in more than 200 studies.
 
And while Barna Group’s research has previously highlighted what’s not working to keep Millennials at church, the research also illuminates what is working—and what churches can do to engage these young adults.
 
The Harsh Realities of Millennial Faith
 
But first, the concerns of Millennials leaving the Church must be understood.
 
Parents and leaders have long been concerned about the faith development of the generation born between 1984 and 2002—and for good reason. First, Barna research shows nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life. Second, the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade, from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population.
 
Third, when asked what has helped their faith grow, “church” does not make even the top 10 factors. Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus.
 
Culture: Acceleration and Complexity
 
Still, not all is doom and gloom when it comes to faith among Millennials. In contrast to the widespread religious disillusionment marked among so many of their peers, millions of Christian Millennials remain deeply committed and active in their faith.
 
About one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds are practicing Christians, meaning they attend church at least once a month and strongly affirm that their religious faith is very important in their life. A majority of Millennials claim to pray each week, one-quarter say they’ve read the Bible or attended a religious small group this week, and one in seven have volunteered at a church in the past seven days.
 
These spiritual practices are notable, says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, because the broader cultural trends have not been particularly friendly to faith.
 
“Millennials are rethinking most of the institutions that arbitrate life, from marriage and media, to government and church,” says Kinnaman, the author of You Lost Me and unChristian who has spent the last 20 months speaking nationally about the challenges facing today’s Millennials. “They have grown up in a culture and among peers who are often neutral or resistant to the gospel. And life feels accelerated compared with 15 years ago—the ubiquity of information makes it harder for many to find meaning in institutions that feel out of step with the times. Millennials often describe church, for instance, as ‘not relevant’ or say that attending worship services ‘feels like a boring duty.’
 
“Furthermore, many young Americans say life seems complicated—that it’s hard to know how to live with the onslaught of information, worldviews and options they are faced with every day. One of the specific criticisms young adults frequently make about Christianity is that it does not offer deep, thoughtful or challenging answers to life in a complex culture.”
 
But this criticism is also a sign of hope, Kinnaman suggests, since it means Millennials are craving depth—a need the Church is uniquely poised to meet. In this respect, the research points to five ways faith communities can build deeper, more lasting connections with Millennials.
 
1.    Make room for meaningful relationships.
 
The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who remained active in their faith beyond high school and twentysomethings who dropped out of church, the Barna study uncovered a significant difference between the two. Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same.
 
Kinnaman is quick to point out the limitations of such a study: “It’s important for anyone who uses research to realize correlation does not equal causation.
 
“Yet, among those who remain active, this much is clear: the most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational. This stands true from the inverse angle as well: Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.
 
“The implication is that huge proportions of churchgoing teenagers do not feel relationally accepted in church. This kind of information should be a wake-up call to ministry leaders as well as to churched adults of the necessity of becoming friends with the next generation of believers.”
 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
 
2.    Teach cultural discernment.
 
A second important ministry outcome for today’s Millennials is helping them develop discernment skills—especially in understanding and interpreting today’s culture. For example, active Millennial Christians are more than twice as likely to say they “learned about how Christians can positively contribute to society” compared to those who drop out (46% versus 20%). Actives are also nearly four times more likely to say they “better understand my purpose in life through church” (45% versus 12%).
 
For a generation that already laments the complexity of modern life, the Church can offer valuable clarity. Millennials need help learning how to apply their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities. In many ways, pop culture has become the driver of religion for Millennials, so helping them think and respond rightly to culture should be a priority.
 
Although, such development must also take care to avoid the overprotective impulses that are driven by fear of culture. Rather, Millennials need guidance on engaging culture meaningfully, and from a distinctly Christian perspective. This idea of finding a way to bring their faith in Jesus to the problems they encounter in the world seems to be one of the most powerful motivations of today’s practicing Christian Millennials. They don’t want their faith to be relegated to Sunday worship, and this desire for holistic faith is something the Church can speak to in a meaningful way.
 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
 
3.    Make reverse mentoring a priority.
 
A third thing Barna Group’s team has learned about effective ministry to Millennials is that young people want to be taken seriously today—not for some distant future leadership position. In their eyes, institutional church life is too hierarchical. And they’re not interested in earning their way to the top so much as they’re want to put their gifts and skills to work for the local church in the present—not future—tense.
 
The term “reverse mentoring” has come to describe this kind of give and take between young and established leaders. Kinnaman says, “Effective ministry to Millennials means helping these young believers discover their own mission in the world, not merely asking them to wait their turn. One way to think about this generation is that they are exiles in something like a ‘digital Babylon’—an immersive, interactive, image-rich environment in which many older believers feel foreign and lost. The truth is, the Church needs the next generation’s help to navigate these digital terrains.”
 
The research shows few churches help young people discover a sense of mission, though this too is important in cultivating a faith that lasts. Millennials who remain active in church are twice as likely as dropouts to say they served the poor through their church (33% versus 14%). They are also more likely to say they went on a trip that helped expand their thinking (29% versus 16%) and more likely to indicate they had found a cause or issue at church that motivates them (24% versus 10%).
 
4.    Embrace the potency of vocational discipleship.
 
A fourth way churches can deepen their connection with Millennials is to teach a more potent theology of vocation, or calling. Millennials who have remained active are three times more likely than dropouts to say they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling (45% versus 17%). They are four times more likely to have learned at church “how the Bible applies to my field or career interests” (29% versus 7%). A similar gap exists when it came to receiving helpful input from a pastor about education (21% versus 5%), though going so far as offering a scholarship (5% versus 2%) was not particularly widespread.
 
“Most churches seem to leave this kind of vocation-based outcome largely at the door,” comments Kinnaman, “unless these students show interest in traditional church-based ministry.” But what Millennials are seeking goes beyond this. Kinnaman calls it “vocational discipleship,” a way to help Millennials connect to the rich history of Christianity with their own unique work God has called them to.
 
5.    Facilitate connection with Jesus.
 
Finally, more than a mere community club helping youth cross the threshold of adulthood, church communities can help Millennials generate a lasting faith by facilitating a deeper sense of intimacy with God. For example, Millennials who remain active are more likely than those who dropped out to say they believe Jesus speaks to them personally in a way that is real and relevant (68% versus 25%). Additionally, actives are much more likely to believe the Bible contains wisdom for living a meaningful life (65% versus 17%).
 
“This means Millennials who retain a longer-lasting faith than their peers are more likely to find a sense of authority in the Word of God—both in the pages of the Bible as well as in their experience of intimacy with the God they follow,” Kinnaman says.
 
Of course, many church leaders are already trying to connect biblical authority to a personal relationship with Jesus for their young people. So what is happening to thwart these efforts?
 
Kinnaman explains, “In part, it is a failure of not connecting Jesus and the Bible to the other outcomes identified in this research—relational, missional, vocational and cultural discernment. In other words, the version of ‘Jesus in a vacuum’ that is often packaged for young people doesn’t last long compared to faith in Christ that is not compartmentalized but wholly integrated into all areas of life.”
 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
 
A Handful of Caveats
 
There are several caveats that come with this kind of research, Kinnaman points out. “First, as Millennials are quick to say themselves, life is complicated—there are many significant influences at work in their lives today. These five principles are certainly not an exhaustive list, but it does reflect some of the things our team has learned so far.
 
“Second, parents as well as church and organizational leaders should be open to learning all they can about Millennials in order to maximize their efforts to spiritually engage them. However, they should take care not to idolize this emerging generation and in so doing create a form of age-ism. Millennials should be a priority not because ‘youth must be served,’ but because this generation is trying to learn faithfulness in a rapidly changing post-Christian culture. Millennials need the help of faithful believers from older generations if they are to make sense of it all and move meaningfully forward in their life and faith.”
 
Future Research
 
The Barna team is hard at work exploring additional aspects of Millennials’ life, faith and experience. This includes studies on architecture, the Bible, spiritual practices, liturgy, social justice, youth ministry and more. If you are interested in staying informed about this future research, you can subscribe here.
 
If your organization is interested in commissioning customized research among the Millennials you serve—or even a national poll of Millennials—ask us how we can help.
 
As part of this larger Barna Millennial Project, a limited number of churches can join Barna Labs—a nine-month training and evaluation program to help youth and young adult leaders know their people and their impact. Learn more here.
 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
 
5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
 
About the Study
 
This article is based on research conducted for the Faith That Lasts Project, much of which took place between 2007 and 2012. The research included a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group.
 
In addition to extensive quantitative interviewing with adults and faith leaders nationwide, the main research examination for the study was conducted with 18- to 29-year-olds who had been active in a Christian church at some point in their teen years. The quantitative study among 18- to 29-year-olds was conducted online and via telephone with 1,296 current and former churchgoers. The Faith That Lasts research also included parallel testing on key measures using telephone surveys, including interviews conducted among respondents using cell phones, to help ensure the representativeness of the online sample. The sampling error associated with 1,296 interviews is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
 
More can be found about Millennials in the book You Lost Me and the companion DVD.
 
American Bible Society commissioned the data under point five related to the Bible.
 
About Barna Group
 
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
 
If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
 
© Barna Group, 2013
 
 
 

Barna Group: Are Christians More Like Jesus or Pharisees?

 
Christians: More Like Jesus or Pharisees?
 
Barna Group
April 30, 2013
 
One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people.
 
A new Barna Group study examines the degree to which this perception may be accurate. The study explores how well Christians seem to emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus in their interactions with others.
 
The research project was directed by David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, in conjunction with John Burke, author of Mud and the Masterpiece, a book exploring the attitudes and actions of Jesus in all of his encounters.
 
Assessing Christlikeness
 
In this nationwide study of self-identified Christians, the goal was to determine whether Christians have the actions and attitude of Jesus as they interact with others or if they are more akin to the beliefs and behaviors of Pharisees, the self-righteous sect of religious leaders described in the New Testament.
 
In order to assess this, Barna researchers presented a series of 20 agree-or-disagree statements. Five actions and five attitudes that seem to best encapsulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth. The researchers did the same for the Pharisees (10 total statements, five reflecting behaviors and five examining attitudes).
 
Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, directed the study. He commented on the creation of a “Christ-like” scale: “Our intent is to create some new discussion about the intangible aspects of following and representing Jesus. Obviously, survey research, by itself, cannot fully measure someone’s ‘Christ-likeness’ or ‘Pharisee-likeness.’ But the study is meant to identify baseline qualities of Jesus, like empathy, love, and a desire to share faith with others—or the resistance to such ideals in the form of self-focused hypocrisy. The statements are based on the biblical record given in the Gospels and in the Epistles and our team worked closely with a leading pastor, John Burke, to develop the survey questions.”
 
Fleshing Out Christ-likeness
 
To flesh out the objectives of the study, a nationwide, representative sample of Christians was asked to respond to 20 statements. They could rate their agreement on a four-point scale. The 10 research statements used to examine Christ-likeness include the following:
 
Actions like Jesus:
  • I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
  • In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
  • I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
  • I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
  • I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.
 
Attitudes like Jesus:
  • I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
  • I believe God is for everyone.
  • I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
  • It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
  • I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.
 
The 10 statements used to assess self-righteousness (like the Pharisees), included the following research items:
 
Self-Righteous Actions:
  • I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.
  • I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That’s between me and God.
  • I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.
  • I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
  • I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.
Self-Righteous Attitudes:
  • I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong things.
  • It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.
  • I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people’s failures and flaws.
  • I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.
  • People who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not.
 
How Christ-like are Christians?
 
Using these 20 questions as the basis of analysis, the researchers created an aggregate score for each individual and placed those results into one of four categories, or quadrants. (Further definition of the way these findings were analyzed is found later in this article.) The four categories include:
 
• Christ-like in action and attitude
• Christ-like in action, but not in attitude
• Christ-like in attitude, but not action
• Christ-like in neither
 
The findings reveal that most self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical. Just over half of the nation’s Christians—using the broadest definition of those who call themselves Christians—qualify for this category (51%). They tend to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness.
 
On the other end of the spectrum, 14% of today’s self-identified Christians—just one out of every seven Christians—seem to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found to be consistent with those of Jesus.
 
In the middle are those who have some mix of action and attitude. About one-fifth of Christians are Christ-like in attitude, but often represent Pharisaical actions (21%). Another 14% of respondents tend to be defined as Christ-like in action, but seem to be motivated by self-righteous or hypocritical attitudes.
 
 
Evangelicals and Others

Looking at America’s evangelical community—a group defined by Barna Group based on its theological beliefs and commitments, not self-identification with the terms “evangelical”—38% qualify as neither Christ-like in action nor attitude, according to their responses to these 20 questions. About one-quarter (23%) of evangelicals are characterized by having Jesus-like actions and attitudes, which was higher than the norm. About half were a mixture of Christ-like actions and Pharisaical attitudes (25%) or vice versa (15%).
 
Evangelicals are notably distinct from the norms in two ways: first, they were slightly more likely than other Christians to be Christ-like in action and attitude. However, among those in the “middle ground,” with so-called jumbled actions and attitudes, evangelicals are the only faith group more likely to be Pharisaical in attitude but Christ-like in action.
 
Kinnaman explains: “This research may help to explain how evangelicals are often targeted for claims of hypocrisy; the unique ‘sin’ of evangelicals tends to be doing the ‘right’ thing but with improper motives.”
 
The research shows that non-evangelical born again Christians and notional Christians were not much different from one another and not too distinct from national norms among all Christians.
 
Practicing Catholics were more likely than average to have Christ-like beliefs, but to demonstrate Pharisaical tendencies (i.e., they were 10 points above the average in terms of being Christ-like in attitude but Pharisaical in action).
 
 
Who Exhibits Christ-likeness?

Despite their shortcomings in the study, evangelical Christians are the most likely Christian segment to be categorized as having both the Christ-like actions and attitudes (23%) identified by Barna researchers.
 
Interestingly, a similar proportion (22%) of Christians who have a more liberal political ideology claimed both Christ-like attitudes and actions. Non-mainline Protestants with a practicing faith are also more likely than average to be in this top category (19%), as are women (18%) and college graduates (18%).
 
Some population segments that are statistically less likely to have both Christ-like actions and attitudes are Elders, ages 67 or older (6%), Hispanics (6%), Christians with a conservative political ideology (8%), and men (9%).
 
What the Findings Mean
 
Kinnaman has spent more than five years presenting to Christian leaders about the perceptions of Christians, based upon his bestselling book unChristian. “In the research for that book project, our team discovered that 84% of young non-Christians say they know a Christian personally, yet only 15% say the lifestyles of those believers are noticeably different in a good way. This new study helps to explain that gap. It is not surprising that believers miss the mark in terms of representing Jesus, because transformation in Christ is so difficult and so rare. In particular, evangelicals seem to know the right way to behave, but they often admit to harboring sanctimonious motives.
 
“Many Christians are more concerned with what they call unrighteousness than they are with self-righteousness. It’s a lot easier to point fingers at how the culture is immoral than it is to confront Christians in their comfortable spiritual patterns. Perhaps pastors and teachers might take another look at how and what they communicate. Do people somehow get the message that the ‘right action’ is more important than the ‘right attitude’? Do church leaders have a tendency to focus more on tangible results, like actions, because those are easier to see and measure than attitudes?
 
“Finally, the question of authentic faith—is a particularly sore topic for many Millennials—who are often leaving church due in large part to the hypocrisy they experience. Again, no research is a perfect measure, but this study points out a sobering possibility: that the perception so many young people have of Christians contains more than a kernel of truth. Just as the New Testament writer Paul demonstrates in Galatians 2:11-16, the responsibility of the Christian community is to challenge hypocrisy just as boldly as other kinds of sin.“
 
 
About the Research
 
 The OmniPollSM included 1,008 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in each of the 50 United States. The interviews included 300 interviews conducted by cell phone, to help ensure representativeness of cell-only households. Of those surveyed 718 self-identified as Christians and were included in this study. The survey was conducted from November 11, 2012 through November 18, 2012. The sampling error for self-identified Christians is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
 
Based upon U.S. Census data sources, regional and ethnic quotas were designed to ensure that the final group of adults interviewed reflected the distribution of adults nationwide and adequately represented the three primary ethnic groups within the U.S. (those groups which comprise at least 10% of the population: white, black, and Hispanic).
 
To assess the results to 20 different questions, a numeric value was assigned to each response option and the results were tallied. A perfect score was 30 points on the action questions and 30 points on the attitude questions. The equal and opposite result represents Pharisaical actions and attitudes.
 
Furthermore, respondents were penalized if they agreed with multiple Pharisaical statements. If they did embrace these self-oriented perspectives, their score was downgraded. This was done because, in many cases, people often got the “right” answer to Christ-like questions, but also harbored some self-righteousness in action or attitude. For example, depending upon one's total aggregate score, agreeing with two or more Pharisaical actions could remove a respondent from being categorized as having Christ-like actions; instead, he or she would be categorized as having Pharisaical actions.
 
The research was commissioned by Baker Books and John Burke, author of a new book, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing yourself and others through the eyes of Jesus. More about the book can be found here.
 
Definitions
 
People are identified as having a practicing faith if they have attended a church service in the past month and say their religious faith is very important in their life.
 
"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described below) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."
 
"Non-evangelical born again Christians" is defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. These adults are born again, but do not meet the additional evangelical criteria.
 
"Notional" Christians are individuals who identify themselves as Christian yet do not meet the criteria for being "born again."
 
Generations: Mosaics / Millennials are a generation born between 1984 through 2002; Busters, born between 1965 and 1983; Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964; and Elders were born in 1945 or earlier.
 
About Barna Group
 
 Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
 
If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
 
© Barna Group, 2013
 
 
 

Barna Group: America's Most Post-Christian Cities Rankings

The Most Post-Christian Cities in America

Post-Christian Metrics:

http://cities.barna.org/the-most-post-christian-cities-in-america/

The level of irreligion in America depends on how you measure it. And the vitality of faith in America is much more than simply how people label themselves. Barna Group tracks the following 15 metrics related to faith, which speak to the lack of Christian identity, belief and practice.
 
Post-Christian = meet at least 60% of the following 15 factors (9 or more factors)
 
Highly Post-Christian = meet at least 80% of the following 15 factors (12 or more factors)
 
1. do not believe in God
2. identify as atheist or agnostic
3. disagree that faith is important in their lives
4. have not prayed to God (in the last year)
5. have never made a commitment to Jesus
6. disagree the Bible is accurate
7. have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
8. have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
9. agree that Jesus committed sins
10. do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
11. have not read the Bible (in the last week)
12. have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
13. have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
14. have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
15. do not participate in a house church (in the last year)
SOURCE BARNA GROUP, N=23,018, U.S. ADULTS, WWW.BARNA.ORG



Confusing Judaism's Covenantal Nomism with Evangelic Terms

Challenging the New Perspective on Paul
 
by Scot McKnight
edited by R.E. Slater
Sep 26, 2013


E.P. Sanders, and then following him J.D.G. Dunn and N.T. Wright, challenged the traditional Christian consensus of how to “read” Judaism at the time of Paul (and Jesus) in 1977 with his well-known and must-read Paul and Palestinian Judaism. The consensus was that Judaism was a works-righteousness religion in which Jews, not on the basis of their covenant-based election by God but on the basis of merit and works, sought to earn favor with God. While there was nuance, and dissenting voices like G.F. Moore, this was the ruling paradigm. So, when Paul said “not by works of the law” most people thought they knew exactly what Paul meant: human pride, self-justification, and weighing one’s merits in a scale so the tip favored the human’s accumulation of merits.



Amazon Book Links
 

Sanders proved that Judaism was far more complex than this and that its “pattern of religion” was in fact a covenant based summons by God to obey the Torah. So Sanders said Judaism’s pattern of religion was not merit seeking but instead “covenantal nomism” (covenant-based call to do the Law [nomos]). This required a re-evaluation of what Paul was opposing and what “works of the law” meant and whether or not the opponents of Paul were seeking to establish themselves by earning favor with God.
 
Sanders won the day; the vast majority of NT scholars believe today that Judaism was not a merit-seeking system and, in fact, if one is not careful one ends up either in anti-Semitism or its softer version anti-Judaism or in some kind of Marcionite denial of the truth of the Old Testament. [This paragraph deserves extensive commentary but this is not the place.]
 
But Sanders and the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” were challenged by some, most notably Reformed or Calvinistic thinkers and exegetes. I am persuaded that the “problems” for the NPP are far more problems for Calvinists and Lutherans and much less so for Arminians, who have never had as much of a problem with the issue of obedience and works, and in some ways for Anabaptists, who valued obedience and discipleship as central to what faith means. (Frustratingly to many of us, many critics repeat talking points and have not read the Jewish evidence at all.) The most recent challenge, a nuanced one, comes from Preston Sprinkle, Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation (2013). It’s a good book though whether or not his proposals will satisfy deserves more than can be said here, and whether or not his sketch of Paul would fit Jesus is yet another one worthy of discussion. [Preston and I have corresponded about this review and his comments made this post better.]
 
Preston’s big ideas:
 
The Old Testament, when it comes to “divine and human agency” (how much are humans involved in salvation? how are they involved?) and “continuity vs. discontinuity” (how different is Paul from Judaism?), reveals two major strands of thinking. Preston calls these the “Deuteronomic” and the “Prophetic.” By these he means that one must repent before one gets restoration or salvation and the other that it all comes from the grace and intervention of God (so that repentance is not the precipitating factor).
 
He then examines these themes, examining what the Dead Sea Scrolls teach and comparing that with what the apostle Paul teaches: the curse of the law, the eschatological spirit, anthropological pessimism, justification, and judgment according to works. Each of these concludes with admirable nuance for each side of the comparison — Qumran and Paul.
 
His fundamental conclusion is that pockets (sectarian elements) of Judaism are Deuteronomic, or mostly so, while the apostle Paul is Prophetic, with some nuances all over the place. In essence, then, he comes out suggesting that the New Perspective overcooked “continuity” between Paul and Judaism and undercooked the discontinuity and that while Judaism has a stronger emphasis on human agency Paul had a stronger emphasis on divine agency in salvation.
 
A few questions:
 
1 - An Artificial Division.
 
I wonder if Deuteronomic vs. Prophetic doesn’t deny the coherency of these two themes in the authors of the Old Testament and therefore the coherency of grace and election and covenant and the simultaneous demand of repentance and obedience for salvation. In other words, at times some suggest Judaism’s emphasis is Deuteronomic without the Prophetic. I doubt any Jewish text is entirely Deuteronomic and I doubt any Prophetic text is not also Deuteronomic. One text he saw as almost entirely Prophetic has some core statements about covenant that are relentlessly Deuteronomic, and Preston Sprinkle is aware of such texts and offers reasonable explanations. Notice  Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; where covenant election and grace are set up in conditionality, and the point must be seen: we are dealing here with covenant status dependent upon or shaped by or conditioned by obedience:
Jer 7:23 But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 
Jer 11:4 which I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron-smelter, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God…
At work here in theological hermeneutics is what is sometimes called the “failure” of the Mosaic covenant and the completion (words are important here and I chose a neutral one) of that covenant with the New Covenant. This entire approach is shaped by Augustinian, Lutheran and Calvinist hermeneutics. Part of the NPP is that those categories do not emerge sufficiently from a 1st Century Jewish framework. I will emphasize that Preston knows these texts and seeks to resolve them within his Deuteronomic and Prophetic approach.
 
2 - The Many Faces of Salvation. The bigger issue for me is that this term “salvation” is slippery. Frankly, the OT texts are not about personal salvation but about Israel; so too Judaism mostly. But the NT stuff is more or less taken to be personal and individual. What happens, then, to “restoration” or “salvation” when it is more corporate focused?
 
At work, as well, is that soteriology is shaped by discussing in the OT how covenant people are restored (top of p. 34). I wonder if that how most in the Protestant tradition understand “salvation” in the NT — in fact, I’m confident they see it as “entry” into the covenant. Hence, for me there is a lingering question: Are we comparing the same senses of salvation?
 
3 - Evangelic Terms Do Not Equate with Biblical Terms. I do wonder how much rhetoric and choice of terms shapes how much “works-based” stuff we see in Judaism, and now that Gary Anderson has virtually proven that “debt” and “merit” were the new commercial metaphor at work in Judaism for “sin” and “obedience” (see his book Sin: A History), I have to ask if we have not overdone the works element in Judaism while ignoring the covenant and grace themes. To his credit, Preston works hard to nuance works and grace and divine and human agency with variety in each text. But for me the positing of the Deuteronomic over against the Prophetic is shaped by that very issue — how much is human agency involved?
 
4 - The Use of Law within the NT. But this simply misses how we have learned to read our own faith. Read the Gospel of Matthew (e.g., Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 16) and watch this word “reward” on the part of Jesus. Is Jesus Deuteronomic? (Preston doesn’t answer this but I don’t know how one could read Jesus and not see his term Deuterononomic instead of Prophetic.) And doesn’t Paul say our final state is on the basis of works in his judgment by works texts, like 2 Cor 5? So, are we minimizing the Deuteronomic in our faith and maximizing it in Judaism? All in the attempt to prove we are better and right?
 
This is a big one: Let us assume my suspicion is right, namely, that Jesus fits the Deuteronomic paradigm. What does that say about Paul? That he departed? That we need to re-visit Paul? (This is what the NPP does, after all.) Or does it suggest the Deuteronomic and the Prophetic fit more closely into a single coherency? Anyway, the two approaches to OT themes sure makes me wonder what Preston does with Jesus.
 
5 - The NPP Remains a Tour de Force. OK, there’s something at work here in Paul especially about grace that shapes the whole system of thought. And there is discontinuity here. But in my judgment the New Perspective offered an important and enduring correction from which we cannot move back. Sprinkle’s effort here is a good one with plenty of sensitive nuance, but this is not the final word.