In 2008 according to pollster George Barna it became evident that Christianity’s image is indeed slipping among the younger generation. In an article entitled “A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity” Barna speaks of the book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, and an accompanying study that revealed startling facts about the under thirty age group.
The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations at the same stage of life. In fact, the investigation uncovered a steep negative downward spiral in young people’s overall attitude toward Christianity.
A decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.
To add to these findings it has also come to light that society is being far from subtle in their expression of hostility toward Christianity. Barna’s research shows that Christians are acutely aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of their faith: 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”
Taking facts like these into consideration it brings a serious tone to the topic of praying for new vision and life for “the Church” in 2009. We need to be falling on our faces before God and asking for a transformed church that God can grow in the 21st century. And in my opinion we must pray for breakthroughs in reaching an expanding unchurched generation of young people who are hostile to the Christian faith.
It becomes helpful to think about the characteristics we need to pray to see demonstrated in the Church in order to see it become desirable. We are not the first Christian generation to face a society that is hostile toward the Christian faith. But in order to change minds and hearts about “our faith” we must demonstrate a “life of faith” that people will want to try and to be a part of. Reflect with me on the type of Church that God engineered to reach the world for Christ in the first century.
A Reflection on the characteristics of a “Church God can grow” from Acts 2:42-47 NKJV.
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
1. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
It was a learning Church.
It was a fellowshipping Church
It was a praying Church.
2. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
It was a reverent Church full of respect for God and His ways.
It was a Church where God-things happened.
If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God–more of God’s presence and power is bound to be demonstrated. More of God’s presence among us would occur if we had faith and believed that together—we and God could see supernatural things happen.
3. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
It was a sharing Church; these early Christians had an intense feeling of responsibility for each other and were willing to go to great lengths to care for the poor among them.
4. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,
It was a worshipping Church; they never forgot to visit God’s house.
Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people.
5. and breaking bread from house to house,
they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
It was a happy Church; gladness was there and they were simple in heart they were easily satisfied and not preoccupied with what they did not have.
6. 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
It was an attractive Church
filled with people others could not help liking.
The phrase having favor with all the people is also translated in other versions as “having the goodwill of all the people.” In reference to the original language this phrase was written in it is important to realize that there are two Greek words for good. Agathos simply describes a thing as good but kalos (the term used here) means that a thing is not only good but looks good; it has a universal attractiveness about it.
Real Christianity is an attractive thing. There are so many people who are good but their goodness is tainted by a streak of hardness or self-righteousness. The early Church was not only ethically good but also visibly good.
As we enter the New Year 2009, let’s pray that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ could once again be in all aspects a church that God can grow. Pray especially for Crossroads Church of Denver that we could embody the characteristics of the early church identified in Acts 2:42-47.
Happy New Year,
Please feel free to add your comments and reflections regarding prayer and new vision for the Church (either the church-at-large or specifically Crossroads Church of Denver) in 2009.