A Shipwrecked Faith
Editors Note: Lion Tracks Ministries Board Member, pastor Kevin Carter, has worked to analyze just a fraction of the data we generated during the 1993 summer ministry schedule. We greatly appreciate his contribution of the following article.
Do you ever wonder what's inside the average Christian mind? Well here is some info for you. First of all, a quick summary. Last year, as Brent and family were traveling to and fro in North America, they handed out a survey to all people at the camps they were at. There were 786 people who filled out the survey, with 80.7% being ages 13-19. The survey consisted of 16 sections dealing with topics from music and T.V., to the bible and personal faith. This article will be looking at a subset of the whole survey. Most specific it will be dealing with those who considered themselves 'committed Christians'.
Some of the statistics will be startling, and even challenging to all. With the survey reflecting peoples' honest answers, what you will be reading is an accurate picture of the church; the Body of Christ. We need to look at not just what these people believe in respect of their faith in God, but at what has become common place in Christianity today.
Before getting to the survey data, lets look at Scripture to have a thought in our minds as we continue. I have chosen 1 Timothy 1:18,19 which states;
'Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.' (NIV)
You can read the rest of the book to see the instruction Paul gives to Timothy, suffice to say it was to help 'fight the good fight', and allow us to hold on to our 'faith and a good conscience.' To those who reject this instruction, their faith becomes 'shipwrecked'. What a way to express a faith -- shipwrecked. Yet how many of us fit into this category. Our faith is shipwrecked. Stuck in the rocks of social tides with waves of compromise coming over top of us. Or maybe our faith has completely sunk under pressure from tempests of worldly influences and no anchor to the Word. Whatever the cause, there are shipwrecked faiths. First, what is needed more than ever, is a return to God's Word. This is the major reason people are not fighting the good fight. They do not examine His instructions, to see what God does say (how can you serve a God you do not know). Secondly, as Paul directs, we have to follow them. What good does it do to receive instructions and then set them aside. Read God's Word, and follow God's Word. These are Paul's directions to Timothy. They become our directions as well. As you examine the survey stats, compare them with Scripture to see what God's standard is. With this in mind, let's look at the survey. Of the 786 surveys, 595 (or 75.7%) responded yes to the following two questions:
First: 'I have made a personal commitment to Christ that is still important in my life today.'
Second: 'When I die I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and have accepted Christ as my Savior.'
By saying yes to these two questions, they have identified themselves as Christians with a commitment. As stated, the remainder of this article will examine only this subset (the 595). Lets look at their responses to the survey. Percentages will be in brackets.
Sunday morning - 554 (93.1)
Sunday evening - 301 (50.6)
Other regular - 359 (60.3)
church activity (not including prayer meeting)
This shows that almost all are committed to Sunday morning services. Other church activities include Sunday School and Youth Group.
The Bible: (Answered Yes)
'Do you believe the Bible - 578 (97.1)
is God's literal word'
'Do you believe the Bible - 568 (95.5)
is accurate in all it teaches'
'Do you feel the Bible offers - 555 (93.3)
solutions to your problems'
Right about now you might be wondering about those who said 'No' to these questions about the Bible. It is a very small percent of the 595, but one needs to ask 'What is their faith based on, if it isn't on the Bible?' These figures are encouraging in that they show belief in the Bible, however as noted in our Scripture passage, believing in the instructions and following them are two separate things. Examine the next question:
'Excluding church and camp week, how many times (average) do you read your Bible each week?'
None 115 (19.3)
1-2 Times 185 (31.1)
3-6 Times 168 (28.2)
7+ Times 120 (20.2)
This shows an even split between those who are endeavoring to read the Bible outside of church on a regular basis; and those who are content to have it read to them in church. How many people bring their Bibles to church, and how many don't? It is easy to have it read to us, but scripture stays in our minds better when it is read by us.
'Select what best describes your family devotions.'
Daily - 69 (11.6)
Weekly - 49 (8.2)
Occasionally - 108 (18.2)
Rarely - 135 (22.7)
Never - 175 (29.4)
Although not all these people may be from "Christian homes", these figures still would reflect a degree of what to expect in the Christian home.
What these last two sets of questions show us, is that 50% of Christians read their Bible (outside of church) more than twice a week, and 20% have daily to weekly family devotions. The other 50% rely almost totally on the one to two church services they attend for Bible teaching (which may consist of a hour total). How does this affect their judgment concerning other beliefs they may hold? Examine their responses to the following social issues that are affecting the church today.
- It should be a woman's - 156 (26.2)
choice if she should
have an abortion
- Abortion is a right - 213 (35.8)
decision under some
- There are times when - 212 (35.6)
it's okay or necessary
- All good people go - 33 (5.5)
to heaven when they die
regardless of their beliefs
- It's okay for someone - 69 (11.6)
to be a homosexual
- Other religions worship - 103 (17.3)
the same God as Christians,
they just use different names
(i.e. Allah, Krishna)
What does the Bible say specifically about these beliefs? The Ten Commandments cover four of these questions. Do not kill, Do not bear false witness, You shall have no other gods before Me. John 14:6 and Leviticus 19:22 refute the remaining. Now listen to some argument some people give for their agreeing to some of these questions. What if the mother is going to die having birth? (a very small percent fall into this category). What if someone gets hurt by my telling the truth? (almost always it is ourselves we are protecting). What if someone is born homosexual? (is it actually from birth? Or rather the result of sinful influences and lifestyle.) Our 'what if' questions are not to hamper the interpretation of God and His Word. God's Word is there to answer our questions, so that when these 'what if' situations come, we can have the instructions to follow. Do we apply our situation to God's word, or apply God's Word to our situation? What do we change when the two don't match? Challenge yourself, honestly, to answering these questions. If the situation does not meet the standard of the Bible, the situation must change. The Bible is God's word, and has complete authority over our lives.
Let's continue with the personal data section. Keep in mind that only 53 (8.9) are (or were) married, in regards to this section.
- Have you had sexual intercourse?
129 (21.7) said Yes
68 (11.4) experienced abuse
- If you haven't had sex, do you plan to wait for marriage?
358 (60.2) said Yes
- If not married: (Yes Responses)
...do you want your spouse to be a virgin
... do you fantasize about sexual encounters
... do you read sex magazines (Playboy etc.)
There were a number of people who chose not to answer this section because of its personal nature, yet were included in the over all picture (the 595 committed Christians). Actual percentages could have been higher. High or low, the fact is that God's word is specific in the area of sex and its proper place in the marriage. Do our values line up with His?
There were other sections in the survey that dealt with music, T.V., movies, videos, occult. They include favorite programs, songs, movies, and length of time spent in these activities. The information is to great for one newsletter and must be reserved for another. However, there is one last section I will examine.
- Jesus is Lord of all my life - 532 (89.4)
- I believe it is important - 559 (93.9)
to share my faith with
- I have shared my faith - 415 (69.7)
with someone in the last
It is often easy to believe the right things, but do we practice them? Praise God though, there are 415 that have shared their faith in the last six months.
Once again, what is our instruction from God's Word? Check it out for yourselves; 1 Peter 3:15, John 14:23, John 15:1-4, Matthew 28:18-20. Now that you've read these verses, if its been a while since you last read the Bible, begin again. Start with Ephesians, a letter written to all Christians. Don't stop there. Continue with Colossians and so on. We need to be desiring the "sincere milk of the word."
Our figures include faiths of young people that are either already shipwrecked, or about to hit the rocks. What can we do to encourage people to make their faith real? While some positive is reflected in these statistics, the percentage holding non-Biblical views reflect a great disunity, within the entire Body of Christ, regarding Biblical authority. People need to be challenged in their faith. "Watch your life and doctrine closely, Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16) What do you believe as a Christian? Is the world's viewpoint influencing you, or is God's Word changing you? Are you setting an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity? (1 Timothy 4:12) Are you devoting yourself to the reading of Scripture (vs. 13)? These are the challenges to put to Christians, and it can be done in a loving and encouraging way so as to build their faith. Leaders, guard what has been entrusted to your care. (1 Timothy 6:20) To all of us, let us show our love to the Savior, by living His Word.
(c) 1993-1997. Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.