WHICH PRAYER?

by David Sisler

Six billion souls live on Planet Earth. 1.6 billion of those say they are Christians. Whether they are practicing a faith which the writers of the Bible would recognize is another matter.

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization commissioned a survey by Christian Research, and based on the results, one of two prayers is desperately needed: "Even so, come Lord Jesus!" or "Revival now!"

Forty-four percent of the people who claim to belong to the Christian faith rarely attend church. Seventy percent of Australian adults identify themselves with a Christian denomination, but only 10 percent attend church on a typical Sunday. Church values, it seems, may be important, but church attendance is not. Most who answered the survey said they want church involvement only at life's major events birth, wedding, and death. The church is irrelevant in every day life it seems, and the surveyors blame that partly on the church herself.

The typical US home has three Bibles in it, but fewer than 4 in 10 people read one, according to Barna Research's nationwide survey of 1,000 adults.

Ninety-one percent of all households own at least one Bible. Eighty percent of those surveyed name the Bible as the most influential book in human history. Fifty-eight percent believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches. Thirty-eight percent read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at church. Twenty-two percent say they have read the entire Bible.

A critic of a particular modern language version once referred to it, not as the "Revised Version," but as the "Reversed Vision." The respondents to Barna's survey may have been reading the latter.

Eighty percent say the Bible specifically says that "God helps those who help themselves." Fifty-six percent say a good person can earn his or her way into heaven. Forty-two percent know that it was Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount. Twelve percent say that the name of Noah's wife was Joan of Arc.

Two out of every three adults (67 percent) say they have made a "personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today." The next line in the survey questions that commitment. Forty-one percent say they are "absolutely committed" to Christianity. A similar proportion 44 percent say they are "moderately committed" to the faith. Is being "moderately committed to the faith" the same as being moderately pregnant?

"Increasingly," Barna writes, "faith commitment is viewed as a hobby rather than as a necessity for personal wholeness. True spiritual commitment is deemed to be a bonus, not a necessity."

Years ago, I heard a preacher ask the question: "Most men, most women and most young people reject the claims of Jesus Christ. Is that because of Jesus, or because of those of us who call ourselves Christians?" I wonder how he would rephrase it in light of the results to the two surveys mentioned above. Perhaps, "Most men, most women and most young people who accept the claims of Jesus Christ, never bother to live out those claims. Is that because of Jesus, or because of those of us who call ourselves Christians?"

Another old questions ask, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

Now about those two prayers.

"Even so, come Lord Jesus!" With the current state of the church, based on the answers we gave to the questions posed, the ranks would probably be drastically thinned if that prayer were answered.

Maybe "Revival now!" is the more needed prayer. Do not misunderstand. I am anxious for the triumphant return of Jesus Christ. But revival is for his church something that once lived, and needs, desperately, to live again.

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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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