Christianity 1.0: “Installing” the Faith

A repost from my youth pastor days. Enjoy! -JB

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

-Jesus

A recent Barna survey revealed some less than optimistic stats on the percentage of Americans who hold to a “biblical worldview” – that is, those who go beyond merely checking the Christian box on a poll or attending church on occasion.  Barna defines a biblical worldview as

“believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.”

Here are some of the findings:

– One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances.

– Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches.

– Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force.

– One-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior.

The most striking trend involves the young adult population where

– Less than one-half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation – i.e., those aged 18 to 23 – have a biblical worldview.

As a senior high youth pastor nearing graduation time and doing my best to strengthen the foundation of this year’s graduating class before they leave for college, this breaks my heart and reinforces the challenge before us.  Another recent study that keeps me awake at night found that 65-94% of college freshman – many who attended youth group regularly in high school – stop attending church after graduation.

How can we explain these trends?  How do so many Americans claim to be Christians, even attending church regularly, but when it comes to the core beliefs that inform their daily decisions and lifestyle be so biblically off-base?  And what do we make of the hoards of young adults graduating from our youth groups annually without a biblically informed worldview?

I have found a helpful illustration or modern parable of sorts that has helped me make sense of this reality.  I have been using this illustration with my students in hopes of driving home Jesus’ point from above (cf. Matt 7:24-25).

Consider the man who carefully researches the best computer software on the market for accomplishing the specific tasks he has for his computer — perhaps Photo Shop for graphic design or AutoCAD for architectural drawing.  Perhaps he is comparing operating systems to decide whether his new computer will run best on Windows Vista or XP.  (His folly can already be seen in the fact that he hasn’t considered a Mac!  But that’s another parable for another day.)

The man has judiciously done his research, carefully chosen the best software for the tasks at hand and placed his order.  Yet, when the software arrives in the mail he foolishly sets it aside on the shelf in his office next to all the other unopened boxes of computer software and moves on with his life.

2722839717_5d7dcc9aa1Don’t get me wrong: the man loves his PC, is proud of his software collection, knows the ins and outs of what each program can do and even enjoys debating those self-righteous Mac followers whenever possible.  His friends often consult him with computer questions because he knows so much.

Yet, sadly the foolish man never gets around to actually installing the software in order to experience firsthand what it can do for him. He is content to leave his growing collection of software in unopened boxes on his office shelf.

Now, to get the full impact of this modern day parable we must now try to imagine that we ARE the computer itself and Jesus’ teachings are the software or operating system we are made to run on.  The wise man “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice.”  In other words, he doesn’t just set them aside on a shelf in his brain, decorating his mental library with interesting facts and religious head-beliefs.  The wise man takes the next crucial step and actually installs these words into the core of his being and let’s the Kingdom software become the “computer code” written on his heart to inform and guide his entire life.

The discouraging statistics above reflect a Christian culture where many decorate a convenient corner of their life with a few unopened boxes of Christian beliefs, attitudes and rituals.  Many have read the back of the box and know basics of what the Christian faith program is supposed to do for one’s life.

Yet, far fewer have truly installed the faith.

As ambassadors of Christ and ministers of the gospel, may we not only present people with the right facts from the back of the box but more importantly may we tirelessly urge and teach others to install the faith and make it their operating system for a Kingdom-centered life.

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