Commitment Contradiction, Part II
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."1
Could you imagine what our society would be like in the West if we took away all the churches? And while I am tremendously thankful for all the good work that Christian churches have done—building schools, hospitals, homes for the aged, overseas missions and mission centers for the downtrodden, and numerous other social works—it would appear that, in the average U.S. church today, fewer than 10 percent of the people are doing 90 percent of the work.
Here's the rub with many of today's Christians, at least in the United States. As George Barna, well-known research specialist, calls it: "The Commitment Contradiction."
Following is what Barna’s research found: "One reason why many evangelical churches across the nation are not growing is due to the image that non-Christian adults have of evangelical individuals [Christians]. In a nationwide survey released by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, among a representative sample of people who do not consider themselves to be Christian, the image of 'evangelicals' rated tenth out of eleven groups evaluated, beating out only prostitutes. Not good.
"Various studies conducted by Barna during 2002 ... revealed that less than half of the people who describe themselves as Christian also described themselves as 'absolutely committed to the Christian faith.' Less than one out of every ten regular attendees of Christian churches give 10%—a tithe—or more of their income to their church."2
Tragically, instead of giving God of our first-fruits, most of us who call ourselves Christian give God our leftovers. Giving through tithes and offerings is God's way to finance his work on earth. If every Christian tithed their income and gave offerings—and invested these wisely in God's work, God's work would be done on earth. The hungry would be fed. The homeless would be sheltered. The cold would be clothed. Worldwide missions would flourish—and everyone in the world would be given the gospel.
Furthermore, the average church in America gives only 5% of its income to missions, spending 95% on itself. Certainly we need buildings but I struggle with multi-million dollar sanctuaries that are used only a few hours a week—a practice that very few—if any—secular business could justify.
As Barna also noted, "The persecution delivered by the [9-11] terrorist attacks has produced no increase in spiritual practices, such as attending worship services, reading the Bible, praying, or serving the needy. Giving levels actually decreased last year."3
With terrorism on the increase throughout the world and the likelihood of it increasing even more, we Christians in America and the West need a Great Spiritual Awakening before it is too late. For eternal vigilance is still the price of freedom.
And while we know that the only hope for any kind of lasting peace in the world is by turning our lives over to the Prince of peace—the Lord Jesus Christ, unless we practice and live what we say we believe, we will not make any significant impact on the non-believing world. Furthermore, we will not stem the tide of evil and terrorism, and we will not help make our world a safer place in which to live for our children or our children's children.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, may we Christians in the West and in the U.S. in particular stop taking our incredible freedoms for granted, and never forget that these were bought with a price—the blood of servicemen and women who gave their lives to protect us. And remind us again of how greatly You have blessed us because of the faith of so many of our founding fathers who put their trust in You and gave You reverence and honor. And may we repent of our sins, turn back to You, and become serious about our commitment to You and to our fellow man. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. James 1:22-24 (NIV).
2. Barna Research Online www.barna.org.