Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Age of Decision

I recently heard a variation of the common statistical claim that "nine our of ten Christians accept Jesus as their Savior before the age of 18." This statistic is often brought out as justification for youth ministry. Youth ministry, of course, is of great value, with or without this statistical support. But I am always interesting in reality, so taking a closer look at statistics is a bit of an interest. In this case, it reminded me of a Barna report worth recalling from October 11, 2004 -- "Evangelism is Most Effective Among Kids".

Couple of things to note here:
If that statistic was accurate in the past, it no longer depicts U.S. society. The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
That suggests the number is significantly lower (i.e. 2 out of 3, not 9 out of 10). But also of interest is that 43% accept Christ by the age of 13. This leaves only 21% receiving Christ during the traditional "youth ministry" years of 13-18.

Also of interest (to me) are these stats:
Among people who accepted Christ when they were age 13 through 21, the process was much more diverse. One out of five credited a friend with bringing them to Christ, and a similar proportion said their parents were responsible for their decision. One-fifth also recalled an event as the trigger for their commitment. One-sixth of the people saved as teens (16%) listed a relative other than their parent as the primary influencer. Ministers were cited by one out of every ten Christians who accepted Christ during the 13-to-21-age bracket, while media and special personal situations were listed by only 1%.
Among the adults, I find it interesting that natural relationships account for about 40%: parents (8%); relatives (13%) and friends (19%).

What are the implications of all this outreach? What stands out to you?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preach the Gospel Always: What Would Francis Do?

It is common in this day and age to hear St Francis of Asissi's famous quote:
"Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."
While it underscores the undeniable importance of integrity in our life and words, the quote has never seemed to reflect the biblical perspective or balance regarding the relationship between the two. The gap between the biblical emphasis and Francis' quote caused me to feel a twinge of discomfort each time I heard it pulled out to emphasize the importance of our life, while minimizing the importance of our words.

But now I learn that Francis never said this, nor did he live it. It seems that biographer (and CT Today editor) Mark Galli sets the record straight in his article, Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.

A couple of quotes from the article:

First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It's not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples.

Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.

The point is this: Francis was a preacher. And the type of preacher who would alarm us today. "Hell, fire, brimstone" would not be an inaccurate description of his style.
And his conclusion:

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Changing Demographics

NOTE: I posted this back in May, with my interest less about the stats themselves, more about the implications for mission and evangelism in Europe. Since then, it has been brought to my attention that the statistics have been "debunked." Rather than pulling this post, I leave it up with the counter-point article, "Debunking a You Tube Hit", a "case-study" (so to speak) of the misuse of statistics.

A friend recently brought this video on the changing demographics of Europe, Canada and the US to my attention. What are the implications of this for mission and evangelism?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Believe Again

Another account of A.N. Wilson's journey back to faith--this one from Breakpoint. My earlier post was "Why I Believe Again."

Have you ever known someone who has journeyed from faith to atheism and back? Fascinating to me.