The other day I wondered, if a reader asked me, ‘Fred, what is it you are trying to get at,’ I don’t know that I could give them a clear answer. Well, here it is; my interest and my goal with Peace Within Reach is to challenge myself and readers with the Relevance of the Living Word among the Growing Religious Nones.
As I shared that with some family members, they said it is too much of a mouth-full, so I unpack it here. “Relevance” is an important word. The Google dictionary says it is the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate. I can talk about something all day to someone, but if it does not feel of importance—closely connected or appropriate—to them, they won’t listen to what I have to say.
I believe completely that the Bible is the “Living Word” in that it’s message is just as important today for every individual as when God originally inspired certain people to write it. Hebrews 4:12 states: ” For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It’s whole story of salvation, it’s teaching about eternity, the true to life narratives of the Old Testament about God’s people and the subsequent prophecies which all pointed to their need for a coming Messiah, and the account of how things came to be, are all critically important for people through all the ages. But, if people don’t sense that the Bible is living as they don’t sense its relevance, they simply and profoundly won’t care about its message like I do.
Proof of that fact is the growth in numbers of “Religious Nones.” Religious nones broadly include atheists, agnostics, and the many others who are not religiously affiliated to anything. If interested, here are two articles by Pew Research Center which discuss their growth http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/14/the-factors-driving-the-growth-of-religious-nones-in-the-u-s/. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
A key word in my personal goal or interest (in bold print above) is “Growing.” There is plenty of proof that the category of religious nones is growing, which is a big concern for me as a pastor and evangelist. Is it a big concern for you? The fact that “nones” are growing from within our own families, including our church families, may cause it to go up on your radar. Plenty of our loved ones, or acquaintances from church, do not see faith as important as perhaps older generations do. This can happen as in the following example: A teenager grows up in the church but his faith is not so strong. He goes to a secular university and is pulled in lots of religious, or non-religious, directions and does not get active in a church there. As well, there he learns science from not only a purely evolutionistic perspective, but with one that mocks the thought of a Creator over it all. The teenager falls into the category of religious nones. I have also seen the fall into the category of religious nones happen to praise team members. In fact, I am friends with two of them and the last churches they were involved in were—in my view—authentic, “happening” churches.
Great opportunity exists for churches and their leaders, and for Christian parents and grandparents. The opportunity is to reverse the tide because much of the responsibility for the growth of religious nones falls on believers. (I understand that God is the grower of the seed–1 Corinthians 3:6–but our planting and watering is pretty important too.) The opportunity/responsibility is there in making clear the Relevance of God’s Living Word for every person. Perhaps that starts with believers showing they have authentic, life-impacting, life-guiding faith in God. People don’t want to join something that does not seem authentic and of real personal importance to the one seeking to sell the message/to share the Gospel. Then, whether you agree with me or not, how we communicate on a contemporary issue like positions on human-caused climate change (I wrote about it here: http://peacewithinreach.com/as-a-glutton-for-punishment-ill-try-again-is-climate-change-a-gospel-issue-what-is-a-gospel-issue/ .), and our rhetoric about evolution (I wrote about it here: http://peacewithinreach.com/repent-of-that-thinking/ .), and how we communicate our views on LGBTQ issues and abortion are a big deal.
I will write more on authentic and relevance in a few days. Respectfully, it won’t be about questioning your salvation or your love for God, which I have no reason to doubt; if you are a believer, praise God!