What New Year’s Resolutions Say About the Culture and the Church
The Barna Group's report on American's 2011 New Year's Resolutions is out. The summary of their research is revealing: "Individualism Shines Through ..." Not surprisingly, of those who made resolutions, the top two categories had to do with issues related to weight/health and debt/finances.
From the article:
While people concentrate on themselves when making priorities for the New Year, it is telling that so few Americans say they want to improve relationships with others. There were virtually no mentions of volunteering or serving others; only a handful of comments about marriage or parenting; almost no responses focusing on being a better friend; and only a small fraction of people mentioned improving their connection with God.
Needless to say, Americans are increasingly self-focused. Apparently, relationships, service, marriage, parenting, and improving one's relationship with God are relatively unimportant.
Think carefully here; in a nation that many call Christian, it's certain that a Christian worldview is virtually non-existent. Whether the research respondents are Christian or not, and no doubt many are, when personal improvement and career goals come in ahead of developing one's relationship with God, another worldview is dominant. It begs the question, for all the churches we have, all the resources we offer, all the Christian organizations we join, and all the political activism in which we engage, what are we missing? There's a disconnect somewhere. While God is in control of the results of Christian witness, when the church has little, and indeed decreasing, influence in a culture, something must be wrong with our message, method, or both.
I don't have all the answers. But, it seems to me a few questions are in order. Does our version of the gospel line up with the New Testament's version, or have we changed it in some way? Does our method of promoting the ways of God in the culture mirror the method of the New Testament church or have we altered something significant in our attempt to contextualize? Does the typical church in America and the things it does resemble the typical church in the New Testament or have we somehow clouded the role and function of the church? Does our attempt to attract others look like that which drew people to the early church or is our appeal more culturally influenced? Does the use of our time and resources imitate the priorities of the first-century church or have we subtly sought to Christianize America's use of time and resources? Are our lifestyles and values reflective of the New Testament churches or the society in which we're immersed? Does our love of one another shine through as did the early disciples' or are we pretty much individualists like our fellow Americans?
These questions are not meant as criticism but are offered for analysis. I have some soul-searching to do. Maybe we as the church do as well. At the very least, such research is a call to the church to recognize the work ahead of us. But, before we do the work, let us answer the questions that our work might be effective. Americans, Christian or not, have their priorities reversed. God has to be at the top of our list of things to work on this year; if He's not all the other issues just don't matter. And, if He is, all the other issues will be taken care of. At least, that's what Jesus said (Matt. 6:33).
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others ... and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at http://www.trueworldview.com. To contact Dr. Dean, simply e-mail him at [email protected]