Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Pew Forum Survey Fosters Confusion
I don’t think they mean to, but recent articles about the Pew Form on Religion and Public Life have caused much confusion as the results of the study get farther and farther from the source. The problem is in the interpretations we take from their reports. Recently many people are concerned about the decline in the percent of Protestants in America.
If you read the article carefully, it sounds to me like they only counted protestant denominations. Probably the Church of God wasn't counted as Protestant and I'm sure the independent community churches were not counted. I am convinced—contrary to what many think—that we are living in the greatest time in the history of the Christian faith, only to be exceeded by the church of the future. God is on the throne, the Lord Jesus Christ is still the Author and Perfector of faith and God's Holy Spirit still works powerfully in the hearts and lives of God’s people.
The article quotes “Doug Sweeney, professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, [who] said ‘mainline churches have long been aware of their declining membership.’”
It is too bad the study didn’t recognize the shift from mainline denominations to independent churches and count them as a group who fall under the “Protestant” cape even though they don’t think of themselves that way. This would have given us a much better picture of reality.
However, it is unfortunately true that many who leave the church of their parents never look back. Often they are significantly religious, holding to much the same values as their parents and their parents’ church, however, my experience with this phenomena has been that even though the middle generation (children of church-going Christians) still have faith, if they do not eventually find a church home, they do not pass their inherited values and faith on to their own children. So within three generations the church and the Bible can totally disappear from the influence of the family. This is a genuine tragedy because nothing can replace scripture to mold values, ethics and morality.
So if you’re a parent of children who have left the faith, what do you do about them and your grandchildren? Is it hopeless? Many are the grandparents who pick up their grandchildren and take them to church when their children won’t. This may not be possible however, if they live in a far-away town, or even if you live in the same town, but your children won’t cooperate. Then what can you do?
Sometimes the only thing you can do is pray. But that should not be a note of great discouragement. Saying that doesn’t mean it is hopeless and there is nothing you can do. Prayer is a powerful force for good when used appropriately. According to scripture, the primary requirement is that it must be a prayer of faith. In other words, you must be praying to God and believe that God not only hears, but answers, and has the ability to act on your behalf, or on behalf of those for whom you are praying, when it is appropriate.
Prayer is a gift from God to humanity as a method for us to acquire his power, wisdom, grace, and ability, to positively impact our need. It never “bothers” God when we pray. But my guess is it bothers him significantly when we don’t pray. If I could give him a human attribute, he probably scratches his head in amazement and wonders, “Why don’t they use this gift of prayer I have given them?
Refusing to pray is like sleeping outside in the winter rain when you own a house to live in.