Here it is again. More evidence from surveys what the Bible makes so plain: superficial, non-doctrinal, non-serious Christians sin pretty much like the world; but more serious, more doctrinally oriented Christians lead lives that are morally distinct. Two years ago Ron Sider flagged this in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?
Now a new book by Mark Regnerus called Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers gives the same bleak picture of so-called “evangelical teenagers” who sleep around as much as unbelievers. But again the book points out that “the 16% of American teenagers who say that their faith is ‘extremely important to their lives’ are living chastely” (Gene Veith, “Sex and the Evangelical Teen,” World, August 11, 2007, p. 9).
Some of you may remember what Sider said two years ago. But here it is again. The point is that what he said then has now been confirmed again by a totally separate survey. May the Lord use both these studies to encourage us that even though growing a church by serious teaching of biblical truth may be harder and slower, it does bear more radical fruit than less doctrinally serious strategies of growth.
Here is what Sider says the more radically transformed Christians believe:
These people believe that “the Bible is the moral standard” and “absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible.” In addition they agree with all six of the following additional beliefs: that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches. (Scandal, p. 127)
Then Sider lists the kinds of behaviors this more doctrinally rigorous group tend to show.
They are nine times more likely than all the others to avoid “adult-only” material on the Internet. They are four times more likely than other Christians to boycott objectionable companies and products and twice as likely to choose not to watch a movie specifically because of its bad content. They are three times more likely than other adults not to use tobacco products and twice as likely to volunteer time to help needy people. Forty-nine percent of all born-again Christians with a biblical worldview have volunteered more than an hour in the previous week to an organization serving the poor, whereas only 29 percent of born-again Christians without a biblical worldview and only 22 percent of non-born-again Christians had done so. (Scandal, p. 128)
Sider concludes with a word that pastors and youth leaders should hear with great seriousness—mainly because the Bible teaches it, but also because Regnerus’s new book points in the same direction. Here is Sider’s conclusion:
[The] findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches. (Scandal, pp. 129-130)
Yes. Pray for sure. And work our heinies off teaching and preaching and modeling the Truth. And resist an entertainment model for youth ministry. And cultivate a joyfully blood-earnest atmosphere for worship. And call for our youth and our retirees to go risk their lives somewhere for the risen King Jesus. This is where serious truth-driven ministry takes us.
Growing in the knowledge and grace of Jesus with you,