I don’t think any serious, observant American Christian denies that our culture is on a fast downhill slide.
But I’m afraid we don’t often study our society, especially the communities where we live and serve, carefully enough to gain specific understanding and perspective to the needs around us.
Wherever we serve the Lord is our mission field. And effective missionaries study their culture.
In one of the morning sessions of Spiritual Leadership Conference, I shared a lesson on Ministering Grace in an Unraveling Culture. In this session, I presented eight specific indicators of the specific needs of our culture.
1. Biblical Illiteracy
It is not uncommon today to meet an adult who has little to no knowledge of basic biblical truths—including even an awareness of the biblical account of Adam and Eve, a working definition of sin, or a knowledge of the gospel.
But biblical illiteracy is not only common among the lost. Even professing Christians know very little about what they believe or the Bible itself.
2. Breakdown of the Family
In 1960, 72 percent of all adults ages eighteen and older were married. Today that number is just 52 percent.
However, among all American adults, almost six in ten (57 percent) either currently live with their boyfriend/girlfriend or have previously done so. And 65 percent think it’s a good idea.
3. Rise in Pagan Practices
Like the cities of first-century Asia Minor described in 1 Peter 4:3, America today is turning to pagan practices. There is the worship of false gods (including a growing segment who actually identify as “pagan” or New Age), open sexuality, and the legalization of drugs.
4. Hostility to Authority
Second Timothy 3 gives this as an indicator of the last days:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,—2 Timothy 3:1–2
We are seeing an unprecedented and polarizing rise of hostility toward elected officials across our nation. Additionally, we’re seeing growing hostility toward religious, and particularly Christian, leaders.
There is a growing spiritual apathy around us. Nearly half of millennials (48 percent) qualify as post-Christian.
There is also apathy toward family. Fewer young people are marrying or interested in a family. In fact, there are now only 59.6 births per 1,000 women, which is the lowest ever recorded in the United States.
6. Social Media Addiction
We all have our pet peeves when it comes to other people’s use of social media. But the fact is, social media is becoming an addiction in American culture. (Eighty-eight percent of millennials and 68 percent of American citizens use Facebook.)
The reality of this is that online connection is undermining real relationships and relational skills.
7. Laodicean Churches
At the same time that hostility toward Christians is rising and culture is unraveling, Christians themselves seem to be unconcerned—or at least unconcerned with what really matters.
Too many churches today are like the Laodicean church Jesus rebuked in Revelation 3:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:—Revelation 3:15–17
The city name Laodicea means “people’s rights.” And today’s churches are often more concerned with their preferences or rights than they are with exalting Christ. How do we see that?
First, there is an emphasis on entertainment, even sensual, ungodly entertainment.
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;—2 Timothy 3:4
Also, there is a lessening of doctrine. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and if the church is unwilling to hear and embrace sound doctrine—if it prefers feel-good messages to biblical truth—it is neglecting a basic biblical responsibility.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.—2 Timothy 4:3–4
Finally, there is a lack of confrontational evangelism. The mission of the church is the Great Commission of Christ (Matthew 28:18–19).
Yet Barna research says that 48 percent of churchgoers say they have never so much as invited someone to attend a service at their church.
I am all for serving the community, building relationships, and demonstrating the love of God in practical ways. But without specifically approaching people with the gospel, we are not obeying the command of our Lord.
8. Distracted Pastors
It’s not only church members, but pastors themselves who are distracted from their calling.
Some pastors are distracted by the culture. They are fearful of the unraveling culture taking place around them. Or perhaps they are caught up in it.
Some pastors are distracted by pettiness. Like Diotrephes who John wrote “loveth to have the preeminence among them” (3 John 9), they desire control and so create and defend straw men issues.
And some pastors are distracted by burdens. Whether it be personal burdens or the burdens of trying to serve a distracted and sometimes apathetic congregation, they become suffocated with other people’s expectations and the fatigue of it all.
But There Are Answers
I love the quote, “To know the problems, spend time with men; to know the answers, spend time with God.”
Yes, our culture is unraveling.
But God has called us to minister His grace where we live. We are to preach His gospel in our present culture.
In our next post, we’ll address eight biblical responses to these needs.
(If you’d like a preview, check out the session Ministering Grace in an Unraveling Culture. You can view by video or download the audio. An outline is also available.)