Changing ways of practicing faith

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A day of posts about change. A Barna report released yesterday indicates American Christians are now more open to expressing their faith outside of conventional churches. From the Barna site:

For decades, American Christians, who comprise more than four of our every five adults, assumed they had one legitimate way to practice their faith: through involvement in a conventional church. But new research shows that this mind set is no longer prevalent in the U.S. The latest Barna study shows that a majority of adults now believe that there are various biblically legitimate alternatives to participation in a conventional church.

Each of six alternatives was deemed by a most adults to be “a complete and biblically valid way for someone who does NOT participate in the services or activities of a conventional church to experience and express their faith in God.” Those alternatives include engaging in faith activities at home, with one’s family (considered acceptable by 89% of adults); being active in a house church (75%); watching a religious television program (69%); listening to a religious radio broadcast (68%); attending a special ministry event, such as a concert or community service activity (68%); and participating in a marketplace ministry (54%).

Smaller proportions of the public consider other alternatives to be complete and biblically valid ways of experiencing and expressing their faith in God. Those include interacting with a faith-oriented website (45%) and participating in live events via the Internet (42%).

So what do you think about this? Is this a good or a bad thing? What does it mean for conventional churches?

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6 Responses to “Changing ways of practicing faith”

  1. Ken Coffee Says:

    Obviously, this troubles those of us who are sold out to Christ-centered local churches. Barna (not one of my favorite pollsters…I remember him as Michaerl Dukakis’ pollster) has never seemed to me to have a strong affection for local churches that are like most of ours. What this says to me is that there are lots of believers out there for whom we must seek to make our churches relevant, without giving up our Christ-centeredness. I believe the local congregation is God’s way of our fulfilling the Great Commission. Obviously, some believers do not share that conviction.

  2. Tim Dahl Says:

    The institutions that we call “local churches” have been in decline for a long time. I don’t believe that the current incarnation of the “local church” is necessarily here to change. It didn’t look like this with the first Advent, I doubt it will look this way for the second Advent.

    However, this news about people experiencing/expressing their faith outside of the church walls is not really news to me. I ran into this a few years ago. I met a retired VP of Enron who fits into this catagory. One reason that he won’t go into a church is his perception of their ineffectiveness. He had been retired for many years before the Enron scandal, and wasn’t a Christian at that time. He came to know the Lord only after he got out. However, he remembers that there were many “church going” Christians that he knew at the time, and none of them tried to lead him to the Lord even once. Not only that, but if those same professing Christians had actually been living christianly, then he believes that Enron would have never had gotten as bad as it did. So, in his view the current institution known as the “local church,” is a complete failure in producing authentic Christ-Like Christians.

    He attends a Bible Study once a week at someone’s home, is part of a men’s group for accountability, and attends another gathering (again in someone’s home) that is solely given over to worshiping God. None of these three groups are related. He is now living out his faith in the work place, buy using his international contacts to support local businesses around the world, witnessing about Christ in both word and deed.

    I would never have had considered him a post-mod, being born well before the 1975 date that some give for that. But, he does find himself with a lot of younger adults due to his choice of living out being a Christ Follower.

    Tim

  3. Tim Dahl Says:

    *edit*
    “I don’t believe that the current incarnation of the “local church” is necessarily here to change.”

    Should read as:

    “I don’t believe that the current incarnation of the “local church” is necessarily here to stay.”

  4. wickle Says:

    First of all … calling 4 out of 5 American adults Christians tells me something about the study. That notion is just silly.

    As for content …

    Most of these avoid relationship, thus avoid growth ad building up the Body. Even a good service on TV is devoid of the relationship the makes us the Family of Christ. They also tend to avoid service.

    Of the six choices, only house churches look acceptable to me.

  5. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Wickle,

    Preach on and Amen!!!!

    Now for the none religious language: outstanding observations!

  6. Clint Brown Says:

    A Baylor Institute Studies for Religion report found that fewer than 5% of Americans claim a faith outside of the Judeo-Christian mainstream ( http://www.baylor.edu/isreligion/index.php?id=40634 ). All we have to do is look around to realize claiming a faith and believing/practicing that faith are two different things.

    I think being a part of the “universal” church without being attached to a “local” church is attractive to the emerging adult population for several reasons. The feeling that they have outgrown the local church with its hypocrisy and stale worship is a common theme. Some feel held back from being “true and pure” by “restrictive” relationships with church leaders. And we cannot discount the disillusionment some have because of the current conflicts that are creating new conventions within our denomination at all levels.

    A recent Willow Creek Association study ( http://revealnow.com ) states they found the more a person has grown spiritually the less they are dependent upon the local church for their spiritual growth. However, when the local church does not help them to understand their spiritual growth is ultimately their own responsibility and empowers them to continue in their growth they can become frustrated and “dissatisfied” with their church.

    Can a disciple be growing if he is not joined with a local church? I have seen evangelists and the like operate without consistent participation in their own local churches for years. Now, mind you, not all have been growing. Some had been and still are trapped in a pseudo Christ-like aura and find it very difficult to relate personally with people in day-to-day realities. Those who I have seen as growing, even though they spend the majority of their Sundays on the road, remain closely connected to their local church and under the authority of “their” pastor.

    I think it is Biblical for Christians to be connected to a local group of believers. Anonymously participating in an internet forum or listening to a religious broadcast doesn’t quite fulfill the command to not neglect the assembling of the saints. What about “Home Churches”? Home churches that are churches pass inspection. “Home groups” and “cell groups” as most define them do not.

    I am sure there are many Christians who operate, and do it successfully, outside relationships of a local church. I, however, do not think that is what God has intended.

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