It is Monday morning. Most of us celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ yesterday at our individual churches. The three services yesterday morning at my church were packed. I watched a service online later in the morning and saw overflow crowds for three services there. I saw similar crowds of people at Easter services across the country reported on Twitter and FaceBook. Even with so much going on in churches all across the land yesterday, something doesn’t seem right.
What will take place all across the country today doesn’t seem to go along with what we witnessed at our churches yesterday. I received an email last week from the Barna Group entitled, Jesus: Man, Myth or God? As I reflected on the Barna research, I realized this report was a reflection of what took place in churches on Easter Sunday. Barna reported that 93% of all Americans believe that Jesus was a real person that actually lived. Almost 2 out 3 Americans (63%) say that they have made a commitment to Jesus that still is important in their lives today.
Those numbers seemed very encouraging until I read the rest of Barna’s study. Only 43% of Americans believe that Jesus was God living among humans. As I read that number, I wondered why so many Americans would make a commitment to Jesus if He wasn’t God and just a man who was a good teacher or prophet? It even became more puzzling when I read that 6 out of 10 Americans say that they have no doubt that Jesus will return to earth someday.
The same trends were seen in Barna’s annual study on Bible engagement by Americans. Even though 87% of Americans own a Bible, only 20% of Americans were classified as Bible Engaged. This group of people view the Bible to be (a) the actual or (b) the inspired Word of God with no errors or (c) with some errors (I wonder what the percentage would drop to if they had to believe the Bible has no errors). Bible Engaged individuals read, use or listen to the Bible four times a week or more. Barna also reported that only 17% of Millenials were Bible Engaged while 32% were found to be Bible Skeptics.
When I try to make sense out of these things, I find myself agreeing with Patrick Morley’s observations made in his book, The Rest of Your Life. When one sees throngs of people showing up at church on Easter Sunday or reads that 63% of all Americans have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, one has to ask where are all these people on Monday morning. And why aren’t they turning the world upside down for Jesus? Morley’s answer to that question is haunting. He writes, many of us have so adroitly melded Christianity into our culture that we are completely camouflaged; no when can tell we are there. As Barna has discovered many people claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious”.
I believe a big reason for why we witness these seemingly huge contradictions in what people say they believe and how they live their lives on an every day basis is due to the secularization of society by our educational system. Our educational system in America teaches its students that you can have religious beliefs but they need to remain in your private life. There is no place for those beliefs in public life.
I cannot count the number of times that I have heard adults give a certain answer when asked why they have their children in secular educational programs. Their usual answer is because they went to a secular school and they survived! My response is always the same. Have you really survived?
After asking them this question, I will ask a follow-up question. Does the church today have more, the same or less influence in society today than it did 40 or 50 years ago? When asked this question, the answer is always the same — LESS! Today’s church has not survived secular education’s influence on our thinking. We have become a very dualistic church. We live our lives on Sunday (especially Easter Sunday) according to one set of beliefs but live our lives the rest of the time by another set of beliefs. The result is a church that has lost its influence on the culture. The church doors will burst at the seams on Easter but nothing happens the rest of the week. Will your experience at church yesterday translate into a changed life today and everyday from here on out? Let’s demonstrate the resurrection power of Christ everyday and watch what God will do in our homes, churches and communities. He is still risen today!