These are three things that I've read in the past week. They convince me of the shallowness of my culture and convict me to live in such a way to be counter-culture.
Hurricane Dean is bearing down with full force on Jamaica and the Caribbean. My brother loves meteorology, and as we were watching an update on the storm, the newscaster was commenting how these storms are tragic for many tourists who cannot continue their vacations. There was no mention of the thousands of people living in extreme poverty just yards from the extravagance of the resorts.
A quote featured in World Magazine grabbed my attention.
"Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There's no life transformation taking place." Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, on a survey by the group that found seven in 10 young Protestants who went to church regularly in high school quit attending by age 23.
That quote leads into my next point of frustration. I was flipping through a catalog put out by Willow Creek Association and this page caught my eye.
The graphs give 'The Top Five Reasons People Begin to Explore Christianity,' 'The Top Five Reasons People First Came to Their Church,' and 'Spiritual Behaviors.'
In the first graph, over half of the people beginning to explore Christianity did so because they grew up in church. The next options were "I felt something was missing in my life." and "I was searching for a higher purpose." Coming in 4th, at just under 20%, was "I was inspired by the way a Christian I knew lived his/her life." This means we aren't reaching the unchurched. We can't truly grow as a body if we aren't reaching new people. We won't reach people unless they see us living in such a way that we reflect the glory of God.
The last graph shows just over 50% of "Christ-Centered" people tithe, around 40% serve once a week, and less than 40% of Christ-Centered people "have six or more meaningful spiritual conversations per year with non-Christians." The other categories of "Close to Christ," "Growing in Christ," and "Exploring Christianity" decrease steadily.
The middle graph was predictable, but I was surprised by the first and third. I don't know how this data was collected or what it all means. I have by no means mastered any of these topics. I don't go out of my way to share the gospel like I should, and I'm trying to work on this area of my life. But if over 60% of the American church's strongest Christians don't have at least 6 spiritual conversations with non-Christians each year-only one every two months- the church is in trouble!
I'm not perfect. I have many bubbles I would much rather hide in rather than face the truth. But if the American Church wants to reach people, if we want to live as Jesus lived, we have to get out of our bubbles, get out of the walls of our church buildings. We have to take the gospel to our world. It won't come to us.