Jesus’ Inside the Park Homer

First Base5_jesus-crucifixion

When we speak of the key elements of the Gospel account what are we signifying? I mean what are the essentials?

Do we believe that Christ’s death on the cross was salvific for all mankind? After all, did not Jesus proclaim “Teltelestai;”. . .  “It is finished”?

The second part of verse 30 tells that “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Obviously that means Jesus’ body died, but was that all?

Let’s consider this more closely.

The cross was a horrendous way to die—it was designed to be. Consider that while Jesus was on the cross; as bad as the torturous pain and anguish were, especially with the torture of having to try to pull yourself up to breath and then sliding back down the coarse surface of the beam—there was something much, much, much worse going on.

That was the Father’s Wrath. Jesus was suffering ultimate torment for each person’s sin that ever lived or ever will live. He was suffering the Father turning his back on Jesus until this terrible task was completed; until every sin was “paid in full” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; NASB).

Though Jesus’ dying was a necessary condition for our atonement, his death in itself was not sufficient to cover our sins. The Catholic Church’s crucifix still has Christ hanging on the cross. Jesus has not even been buried!

Although it was a necessary condition that Jesus dies for every man who ever lived or whoever will live, it was not a sufficient condition for the salvation of all men.

In other words, though Jesus death was necessary for you to be saved. Nevertheless it was not sufficient to save you until you make the choice[i] to fully trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Thus when Jesus cried out it is finished he declared that our sins had been paid for. Our debt was paid in full! Think of it like a gift card. However you cannot obtain the free gift until you redeem the card.

But is that the full package? No, there’s more.

Second Basemartin-resurrection-morning-new-image-smallest

The narratives in the Gospels tell us Christ is risen. In Matthew’s account we read,

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you (vv 5-7).

John gives us the first promise of the resurrection of Christ’s Church:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3).

Although Jesus’ death provided a way of salvation for mankind, death had not been conquered. Jesus’ resurrection, however, conquered death. Because death could not keep Jesus in the grave, the grave also cannot ultimately hold those who have trusted in Christ alone as Savor and Lord (John 14:6).

It is the case then that the Bible also promises that because Christ was resurrected, we too will be resurrected to be with Him. When Jesus Christ returns for His Church scriptures proclaim we will be taken up to be with Jesus in our glorified bodies.

 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:53-55).  See also Acts 2:24; Romans 5:10, 21; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; Heb. 2:14.

Paul is actually quoting from the Old Testament passage in Isaiah 12:8 where it state that God “will swallow up death for all time.”

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica he again affirms this:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; see also 1 Tim. 6:13-15).

This makes it very clear that those that have died and those who still are alive when Christ takes His Church home will be resurrected (or raptured), because Jesus Christ was first resurrected. This is The Blessed Hope (Titus 2:11-14).

If that is not enough Christ tells us in Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Third Base627427bc05bfd61647ca0bc4e82f8592

As Christians we celebrate the advent of God coming to dwell with man at Christmas. Our second High Holy Day is what most people call Easter.[ii] I prefer Resurrection Day; the day Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

Good Friday is the day Christ was crucified and is celebrated by some churches.

“That greatest of all events, really, in the life of our Lord, the culminating event, the triumphant finale to His life on earth is probably the most neglected event in the life of Christ.”[iii]

Jesus alluded to his ascending back to the Father right after his resurrection. When Mary recognized Jesus at the tomb “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God (Jn 20:17).’”

The actual event is recorded by Mark and also by Dr. Luke:

 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).” “And He [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).”

The Ascension marked the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly work. When Jesus departed he opened the door for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit couldn’t fully come until Jesus left. Furthermore “the ascension really is an incredibly important event, the culminating reality of His entire life and ministry. . . . He is the one and the only one who having accomplished our redemption was received back into heaven.  This is the final divine affirmation, stamp of approval on His ministry.”[iv]

AscendedWhen Jesus ascended to heaven His divine attributes and glory were restored fully. He was no longer confined to His corporeal nature or limitations; Christ was again fully glorified.

In his High Priestly Prayer in John 17:4-5 Jesus prayed “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.  Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

The Base Ball Analogy

The earth is our Home Base. Satan threw Jesus a curve (he thought) which he smacked hard off the wall, but it was not an over-the-wall homer.

When Jesus died on the cross, Satan’s team thought they had won. But Jesus was just rounding first base.

The resurrection was second base, but Jesus wasn’t done yet. He hung around for forty days, putting the final touches on the foundation of what would be His Church. He was driving for third base.

Then Jesus ascended back into heaven; to the Father. That was third base, but Jesus didn’t stop at third, he rounded third driving for Home Base. That will be the “New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev. 21:1).baseball


[i] Theologically it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit that calls and draws each person to Christ. There is nothing, nothing, we can do on our own to reach God.

[ii] The word “Easter” most probably comes from the pagan name Ishtar, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

[iii] John MacArthur, “What the Ascension Accomplished,” https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-411/what-the-ascension-accomplished

[iv] Ibid.

The Occultic Essence of Catholicism

mystery-babylonThe Catholic Church has been founded in heretical doctrine since its establishment.

It has distorted biblical truths by adding, subtracting, or changing what the Word of God actually declares. This article is about the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church.

What follows is an excerpt from a blog article I ran across in on a website called European Institute of Protestant Studies. I have been studying theology and apologetics for forty years but the extreme occultic nature of this shocked me.

It is every bit as occultic as the Masonic Lodge or The Church of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. and it is almost as maliciously evil as Islam.

Now to be clear what follows is from the Jesuit Order.

It is called the Jesuit Extreme Oath of Induction. There are two versions, but they vary little.

The first is the Oath is also quoted by Charles Didier in his book Subterranean Rome (New York, 1843), translated from the French original. Dr. Alberto Rivera, who escaped from the Jesuit Order in 1967, confirms that the induction ceremony and the text.

The second is the Jesuit Oath recorded in the Journals of the 62nd Congress, 3rd Session, of the United States Congressional Record (House Calendar No. 397, Report No. 1523, 15 February, 1913, pp. 3215-3216).

As they are quite lengthy I will not quote them in their entirety. For the complete ritual go here or here.

Tocropped-calcuttajesuitslogo set this up “when a Jesuit of the minor rank is to be elevated to command, he is conducted into the Chapel of the Convent of the Order, where there are only three others present, the principal or Superior standing in front of the altar.”

On either side stands a monk, one of whom holds a banner of yellow and white, which are the Papal colors, and the other a black banner with a dagger and red cross above a skull and crossbones, with the word INRI, and below them the words IUSTUM, NECAR, REGES, IMPIOUS. The meaning of which is: It is just to exterminate or annihilate impious or heretical Kings, Governments, or Rulers.

Upon the floor is a red cross at which the postulant or candidate kneels. The Superior hands him a small black crucifix, which he takes in his left hand and presses to his heart, and the Superior at the same time presents to him a dagger, which he grasps by the blade and holds the point against his heart, the Superior still holding it by the hilt, and thus addresses the postulant:”

The Superior priest begins the ritual with a lengthy hortatorial oath beginning thus:

My son, heretofore you have been taught to act the dissembler: among Roman Catholics to be a Roman Catholic, and to be a spy even among your own brethren; to believe no man, to trust no man.jesuit-logo

It goes on to posit that the postulant is to pretend he is in agreement with whatever religion, sect, or denomination is mixing with at the time—he is after all a spy. He is to obtain “their confidence, to seek even to preach from their pulpits.”

As with Islam’s taqiyya, lying to gain an advantage, so too the Jesuit is do what is necessary, even going so far as to denounce vehemently the Catholic Church and the Pope to gain the upper hand.

The Superior continues with:

You have been taught to insidiously plant the seeds of jealousy and hatred between communities, provinces, states that were at peace, and incite them to deeds of blood, involving them in war with each other, and to create revolutions and civil wars in countries that were independent and prosperous, cultivating the arts and the sciences and enjoying the blessings of peace.

All of this is to the end that the apostate Catholic Church “might be the gainer in the end, in the conditions fixed in the treaties for peace and that the end justifies the means.”

It goes on of more of the same and echoes strongly what has been already stated. The postulant then must assert his loyalty . . . to Christ? No no, he must to be all things to all men, for the Pope’s sake, whose servants we are unto death.”

Not for Christ who died for all, but for a man, a little minded, power hungry man with the title of Pope.

When the Superior concludes the postulate or candidate gives an affirming response which begins thusly:

I, ______ now, in the presence of Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed Michael the Archangel, the blessed St. John the Baptist, the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul and all the saints and sacred hosts of heaven, and to you, my ghostly father, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus . . .

Notice Jesus Christ is not mentioned in any of this! The Society of Jesus clearly has nothing to do Jesus, but this satanic society of the Jesuit Catholics.

Now comes the horrendous declaration of death.

The postulant further promises to wage war “secretly or openly against all heretics.” Heretics are defined as anybody not a Catholic.

He is to do this upon direction and “exterminate them from the face of the whole earth” and killing them regardless of

 . . . age, sex or condition; and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics, rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants’ heads against the walls, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race.

This is perhaps where Islam took some of their sick dogmas from.

This closes out with a Q & A between the Superior and the Postulate. This you can look this up for yourself if interested here.

However the last command of the Superior is this:

Go ye, then, into all the world and take possession of all lands in the name of the Pope. He who will not accept him as the Vicar of Jesus and his Vice-regent on earth, let him be accursed and exterminated.

Adam and Eve bought into Satan’s “small lie” in the Garden and man and Creation was cursed. In the fullness of time God will redeem it all, but it will be bloody and painful for those who do not Do you know the True Christ.

The True Church of Christ awaits the Blessed Hope.

Simon & Garfunkel-Prophetic?

simon-and-garfunkel-sound-of-silence-live-playbuttonSimon & Garfunkel wrote and performed some great music.  One of the greatest was Simon’s song The Sounds of Silence, written in 1964.515ladnqpfl-_sx309_bo1204203200_

I referenced this song in my book Before the Final Trump where I chronicled this:

The hauntingly beautiful and popular folk song The Sounds of Silence seems to embodied the mind set of many that grew up in the 60’s.  Those of us that grew up in that era were influenced by its music to varying degrees.  It was the era of rock and folk groups with surrealistic names like the Beatles, the Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and the Papas, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Cream and others.

Paul Simon himself reportedly described this song as, “as a societal view of the lack of communication.”[1]  That assessment is even more accurate in our milieu.

For all the “information” transmitted and available today little substantive truth is communicated.  The main stream media who should be relaying “truth” to us, but spin stories illuminating their radical left, elitist agenda.

Note the dark images painted by Simon.  The darkness is my old friend—not light.  His “vision” is a creeping vision and what was this vision planted in Simon’s brain?  In his dream he walks down cold, dark, damp, narrow streets.  A flashing neon light hurts his eyes, yet there is nothing . . . nothing but silence.

Nevertheless he is not alone—nor is there any silence.  Simon’s lyrics go on to tell us there is no warmth, but the hard, piercing coldness as from a foggy night.  Then our “protagonist” sees a mob of 10,000 people—all talking at once, but saying nothing—which, as it turns out, is okay because no one is listening anyway!

The Simon tells us it is going to get worse [italics added] for he then penned these words: “‘Fools’, said I, ‘You do not know silence like a cancer grows.  Hear my words that I might teach you . . . But my words, like silent raindrops fell And echoed In the wells of silence.’”

So the “silence” is not silence, rather a lack of hearing.  The antithesis of Simon’s sound of silence is given to us in the Bible, “a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. . . .” (Proverbs. 1:5).

The Echoes of Simon’s Silence

Simon really was quite prophetic, possibly in a different way than he imagined.  The mounting echoes of silence are found in the Church and in America.  It is emblematic of where we are today.  People don’t really want to hear or know the truth unless it corresponds to their presuppositions or viewpoint.


Take a listen–enjoy.

It was prophetic—though in a somewhat different way than Simon meant when he wrote it in 1964.

Caiaphas, the high priest of Israel over Jesus’ “trial” unknowingly prophesied of Jesus, “that it is expedient for you [the Jews] that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50).

Of course it was beneficial for the world that Jesus conclude his mission and die sacrificially for the sins of the world. However that was not what Caiaphas meant.

Such was Simon’s prophetic song.


[1] Rich Kent, The Simon and Garfunkel Homepage, http://freespace.virgin.net/r.kent/.

How to be a Muslim-Brought to You by the D.O.E.

Ablin252520mo252520leading252520blind252520-252520false252520prophet_thumb25255b125255ds I just posited in my most recent CrossChek post “Islam is Satan’s magnum opus of false religions.”

The creeping political correctness of the past seventy years has softened up the American cultural values so that our guiding principles are being stood on their heads.

While the upper echelons of academia are virtually totally corrupted, I am somewhat dismayed at the extent K-12 is exposed.

Exemplar of this cultural vicissitudinous degradation is the Islamic propaganda being fed our children through the public school systems in the name of tolerance.

What are these teacher thinking??

MuslimIndocSchool

The Staunton VA work sheet is especially troubling. To become a Muslim one has only to recite the Shahada. This work sheet gets the student writing it in Arabic.

Can there be anyone on this planet who think “Islam is a religion of peace” after watching the news night, after night?  I guess so.

As Blaise Pascual wrote

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.

Blindsided

Blind Sided

Islam is Satan’s magnum opus of false religions. Satan knows he has already lost the war, but he battles on to take as many down to the pit with him as he can.

One would think anyone with a modicum of common sense and intellectual integrity could not possibly be fooled by this venomous, homicidal, bloody religion; Islam. Clearly that is not the case, but why?

Let’s see what the God of the Bible has to say about why the world is so blind to false religions and Islam’s bloody dogma in particular.

Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth told them “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.” That seems pretty clear and straight forward. But who is this god of the world?

Paul’s full passage in this letter states:

[Since] we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.                2 Corinthians 1:1-4

This Pauline Epistle, like all epistolary writings in the Bible is written to followers of Jesus Christ.

Essentially Paul is saying that as Christians, justified by Christ, and indwelt with His Holy Spirit we no longer walk in the ways of the world. It is the Spirit which allows us to understand the truth of the Word of God–our eyes are no longer veiled.

Those who are perishing do not understand; cannot understand what the Bible teablindsidedches (v 3). Additionally verse 4 tacitly tells us that not only is the gospel message veiled, but the unbelievers minds are blinded to truth, but vulnerable to the lies of the world.

So when the god of the world; Satan, tells some of these people to strap bombs on their children to kill Jews, to execute Christians, blow up Christian Churches, rape non-Muslim women, mutilate the genitals of little girls, take six year old girls for wives–they simple follow blindly along.

jumpfire

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Yes, I was there. And, I hope, so were you.

For if you were not then you are not redeemed and rescued.

The path to the cross, preceded by cruel torture and floggings with whips with shards of bone tied in, ended in supreme humility “with the victim naked, with no rights, no reputation, and no recourse”[i] other than a slow, excruciating, death by suffocation.

Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman cross. It was designed for cruelty. The cross humiliated its victims. The cross was used to execute those who were cursed to the utmost.

I was at the cross when Jesus died.  It was my sin that put Jesus on that cruel cross-my sin!

Because I was there I am redeemed. 

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . (Ephesians 1:4-5).

There were two criminals on each side of Jesus. One saw who Jesus really was and turned to Him and said, ““Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

The great theologian Sir Robert Anderson wrote:

The cross has shut up man to grace or judgment. . . . Every effort to recover themselves is but a denial of their doom, and a denial too of the grace of God, which stoops to bring them blessing where they are and as they are.”

We need to confess our sins and like the thief ask Jesus to “remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”

If Jesus had stayed in the tomb he was buried in all of this would be moot.

The really great news is Jesus did not stay in that tomb–He arose.

Jesus resurrection is our resurrection, because Jesus rose, we shall too. The preeminent kingpin of the Christian faith is the Truth of the Resurrection.

The apostle Paul told affirms this in his letter to the church at Corinth.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

He is risen; He is risen indeed.


[i] Erwin Lutzer, Cries From the Cross (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002)

The Struggle with Living Out the Christian Faith.

This is a reprint of a survey done by the Barna Group


America may possess the world’s largest infrastructure for nurturing human spirituality, complete with hundreds of thousands of houses of worship, thousands of parachurch organizations and schools, and seemingly unlimited products, resources and experts.

Yet, a new study from the Barna Group identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process.

The research was conducted by Barna Group in partnership with Living on the Edge (www.livingontheedge.org) and included a nationwide, random sample of adults and a similar national survey among Protestant pastors, exploring definitions of, perceptions about, and perceived barriers to spiritual maturity. 

Five Challenges

The study showed five significant challenges when it comes to facilitating people’s spiritual growth.

  1. Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.

One of the widely embraced notions about spiritual health is that it means “trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible”81% of self-identified Christians endorsed this statement, and a majority agreed strongly (53%). Even among those individuals defined by their belief that salvation is not earned through “good works,” four out of five born again Christians concurred that spiritual maturity is “trying hard to follow the rules.”

  1. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity. 

An open-ended survey question asked churchgoers to describe how their church defined a “healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus.” Half [50%] of churchgoers simply said they were not sure, unable to venture a guess regarding the church’s definition. Even among born again Christians – that is, a smaller subset of believers who have made a profession of faith in Christ and confessed their sinful nature – two out of five were not able to identify how their church defines spiritual maturity. Among those who gave a substantive response, the most common responses were having a relationship with Jesus (16%), practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study (9%), living according to the Bible (8%), being obedient (8%), being involved in church (7%), and having concern for others (6%).

  1. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity. 

A second open-ended question probed self-identified Christians’ personal definition of what it means to be a healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus, regardless of how they believe their church defines it. One-fifth [20%] of self-described Christians were unable to offer an opinion. Other identified elements included: relationship with Jesus (21%), following rules and being obedient (15%), living a moral lifestyle (14%), possessing concern about others (13%), being involved in spiritual disciplines (13%), applying the Bible (12%), being spiritual or having belief (8%), sharing their faith with others (6%), and being involved in church activities (5%).

Born again Christians were similar in all respects to self-described Christians except they were more likely to mention having a relationship with Jesus (30%) as the sign of spiritual maturity. Further reflecting a lack of depth on the subject, the open-ended questions typically produced, on average, just one response from survey respondents, despite the fact that interviewers repeatedly probed for additional or clarifying comments.

  1. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.

The research among pastors highlighted several inter-related challenges. First, while nearly nine out of 10 pastors said that a lack of spiritual maturity is the most significant or one of the largest problems facing the nation, [yet only] a minority of pastors believe that spiritual immaturity is a problem in their church. A second challenge is that only a minority of churches has a written statement expressing the outcomes they are looking for in spiritually mature people. A third challenge is that pastors often favor activities over perspectives in their definitions of spiritual maturity. Their metrics for people’s spirituality include the practice of spiritual disciplines (19%), involvement in church activities (15%), witnessing to others (15%), having a relationship with Jesus (14%), having concern for others (14%), applying the Bible to life (12%), being willing to grow spiritually (12%), and having knowledge of Scripture (9%).

  1. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

One of the reasons churches struggle with making disciples may relate to the lack of clarity that pastors have about the underlying biblical passages that address the process of spiritual maturity. This is most clearly reflected in the huge proportion of pastors who give generic responses when asked to identify the most important portions of the Bible that define spiritual maturity. In fact, one-third of pastors simply said “the whole Bible.” Other generic responses included “the gospels” (17%), the New Testament (15%), and Paul’s letters (10%).

[In reality it is discipleship]

In all, the survey showed that three-quarters [75%] of pastors gave some type of generic answer to this query. In addition, one out of every five [20%] pastors gave a semi-generic response, such as “Romans” or the “life of Christ.”

As for verse-specific responses (mentioned by just one-fifth [20%] of pastors), the most common passages included: Galatians 5, John 3:16, Ephesians 4, Matthew 28, and Romans 12:1-2. Just 2% of pastors specifically identified the Galatians 5 passage relating to the “fruits of the Spirit,” which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Theme specific answers represented just 7% of responses, including the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Beatitudes.

Five Opportunities

The research also identifies a number of opportunities that can be leveraged to address the problems related to spirituality maturity.

  1. Christians and pastors have clarity about the major boundaries that must be addressed to tackle the problem.

What are the perceived reasons that people do not grow spiritually? Self-identified Christians were asked about the obstacles they experience while pastors were queried to see how well they understand the barriers facing their congregants.

Church leaders believe the three primary obstacles to people’s engagement are lack of personal motivation (32%), other competing obligations and distractions (26%), and lack of involvement in activities that nurture growth (19%).

In this respect, they do not seem too far off in their perceptions. Born again Christians identify distractions (24%), lack of motivation (20%), and lack of involvement (13%) as challenges they face, even if two of the three are mentioned less frequently by adults than pastors. Born again Christians, however, are more likely than pastors to identify sinful behaviors and habits as tripping them up (14% of believers versus 8% of pastors).

  1. While most Americans are relatively content with their spirituality “as is,” millions aspire to grow spiritually.

Most adults think of themselves as both spiritually healthy as well as spiritually satisfied, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that most people’s satisfaction can lead to complacency. One opportunity is to connect with the 18 to 20 million Americans who describe themselves as spiritually unhealthy or as dissatisfied with their personal spiritual maturity.

Still, a majority of adults say they are “completely” (14%) or “mostly” healthy when it comes to spirituality (40%); nearly two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as “completely” (22%) or “mostly” satisfied with their spirituality (43%). The opportunity among these individuals is to help them move beyond complacency and embrace a deeper understanding of spiritual growth.

  1. Compared to older believers, Christians under the age of 40 are less satisfied with spirituality and less “rule oriented.”

Young Christians show signs of spiritual openness that older adults do not. People under the age of 40 are different than those Christians over 40 by being less satisfied spiritually and also rating their spiritual health less favorably. In addition, the generational difference over rule-following was striking: most Elders (ages 63+) and Boomers (44 to 62) strongly endorsed the spiritual metric of rule-following (66% and 56%, respectively); however, fewer than half of Busters (25 to 43) and Mosaics (18 to 24) embraced this view (45% and 33%). Among the young, this signals a dangerous propensity to rethink the Bible’s standards, but it also shows unique responsiveness to grace and forgiveness.

  1. Pastors realize they need more help when it comes to assessing spiritual health.

Just 9% of clergy said they were completely satisfied with their ability to measure and assess the spiritual health of their congregation. Still, few pastors (8%) were expressly dissatisfied, leaving a majority of leaders moderately satisfied. Perhaps churchgoers would become less complacent about self-evaluation as pastors embrace more effective forms of evaluation for their congregations.

  1. Pastors tend to be harder on themselves than are congregants.

About 1 out of 10 pastors said the church itself was a barrier to people’s growth, while none of the churchgoers offered a similar critique. Similarly, when asked to rate the church’s ability to help people grow spiritually, pastors were significantly less likely (6%) than churchgoers (33%) to give the organization high marks, reflecting the fact that pastors are often their own toughest critics. The opportunity is to forge a greater sense of partnership and mutual esteem between leaders and laity to address the challenges, to work against self-deception in the process, and to craft deeper, more appropriate routes to spiritual maturity.

Implications

David Kinnaman, President of the California-based research firm, directed the research project. He pointed out several implications of the study:

“America has a spiritual depth problem partly because the faith community does not have a robust definition of its spiritual goals. The study shows the need for new types of spiritual metrics. One new metric might be a renewed effort on the part of leaders to articulate the outcomes of spiritual growth. Another might be the relational engagement and accountability that people maintain. Of course, spirituality is neither a science nor a business, so there is a natural resistance to ascribing scientific or operational standards to what most people believe is an organic process. Yet, the process of spiritual growth is neither simplistic nor without guidelines, so hard work and solid thinking in this arena is needed.”

“As people begin to realize that the concepts and practices of spiritual maturity have been underdeveloped, the Christian community is likely to enter a time of renewed emphasis on discipleship, soul care, the tensions of truth and grace, the so-called ‘fruits’ of the spiritual life, and the practices of spiritual disciplines. [Kinnaman errs here.  What he misses is that without discipleship there will be no spiritual maturity, fruits of the spirit, etc.] A related challenge is that as spiritual formation becomes ‘trendy’ it will inevitably become ‘watered down’ with products that over-promise or are simply counter-productive. Leaders have to take on this issue more effectively, and part of that task is weeding out the good from bad.”


Research
This report is based upon nationwide telephone surveys conducted by The Barna Group with random samples of adults, age 18 and older, and Protestant clergy. The survey among adults was conducted in August 2008 among 1005 adults randomly selected from across the continental United States. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey among pastors included 611 clergy, with a maximum margin of sampling error of ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.
“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”
The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (http://www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.
© The Barna Group, Ltd, 2009.