By Dr. David R. Reagan
Founder & Director, Lamb & Lion Ministries
Cultural? — A Barna Group research survey revealed that America’s churches are full of cultural Christians. Such people have grown up in Christianity, they attend church regularly, and they profess to be Christians. What distinguishes them from other Christians is their lack of a personal relationship with Jesus. In short, they are Christians in name only because they have never been born again.
Former President Jimmy Carter was the one who made Americans conscious of the term “born again Christian.” That is the label he applied to himself in 1976 when he was campaigning for the presidency. I remember how many Christian leaders rushed to the press to proclaim that they were not “one of those born again types.” I found their protestations very interesting in view of the fact that Jesus Himself said that no one can enter Heaven unless they are born again (John 3:3).
The cultural Christian is just that — a person who considers himself to be a Christian because he has been raised in a Christian culture. Al Gore is a good example. He was raised in a Southern Baptist heritage, but during his presidential campaign, he made it clear that Christianity was only his “faith heritage” and nothing more. The cultural Christian, if he has any commitment at all, is committed to religion or a church, and not to Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Such a person is unsaved.
Born Again? — The Barna Group defines the next step up as the “born again Christian.” Born Again Christians are those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and who believe that salvation is dependent upon their relationship with Jesus. These people are saved.
Evangelical? — Barna defines Evangelical Christians as having the highest level of Christian commitment. This is a born again person who strongly holds to certain fundamental biblical truths. Only 7% of Americans qualify as evangelicals, as opposed to 41% who could be classified as born again.
What are you? Could you qualify as an evangelical Christian?
Good News — The Americans who were polled, whether Christian or not, strongly agreed on three biblical points.
1) Almost 75% agreed that God created the universe — an incredible number when you consider all the evolutionist propaganda we are bombarded with daily.
2) Almost 70% rejected the idea that sin is an outdated concept — another incredible response when you consider the “different strokes for different folks” mentality that seems to predominate today.
3) Not surprisingly, 50% stated that they believed in the reality of angels and their influence (I guess we can thank old shows like “Touched by an Angel” and “Highway to Heaven”).
Bad News — The number of born again adults who held views contrary to the Bible was astonishing. Almost 70% agreed that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves. Fifty-three percent denied the existence of the Holy Spirit as a person! Forty-seven percent stated that they did not believe in the existence of Satan. Thirty-one percent said they felt a good person could earn his way into heaven; 30% denied the physical resurrection of Jesus; and 24% said they thought Jesus had committed sins!
Such an abysmal lack of biblical knowledge about the fundamentals of the faith points to a famine of Bible study and preaching in the churches of America. People are obviously hearing inspirational ditties or warmed over homilies from the Reader’s Digest.
We can be thankful that we are not saved by biblical knowledge, but by a relationship with Jesus. But a lack of biblical knowledge stunts spiritual growth and opens people up to doctrinal heresies and cultic deception.
The churches of America need to stop focusing on entertaining people. They also need to stop tiptoeing through the tulips doctrinally for fear of being seeker insensitive. We need to get back to the Word of God, to the fundamentals of the faith, and we need to be willing to step on toes when necessary by confronting people with the truth of their sin and their need for repentance.
As Paul told Timothy, “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4:2).