Truth, truths, and a post!
I have started way too many projects and am trying to tie some of them up while a couple are on hold. I recently went down to part-time at my job, allowing me some more free time, which I hope will be reflected here. I'm starting some sort of hybrid ministry/business that will help churches obtain an easy-to-manage and affordable (and attractive!) website. I firmly believe that this can be a vital tool for ministry and outreach, especially to the 6 out of 10 former youth group members who have fallen away from the church.
So the mission and focus of this web design shin-dig I'm starting up is one thing that's on my mind, so the part of the book that stood out to me goes along with that as well as other ideas and thoughts, if you can call them thoughts, that float around in my head.
The book is Soul Searching, The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith. The author is a sociologist who loves numbers and charts a bit too much, but the following two things struck me and I'm not sure if they're related.
First, there's a chart detailing the percentages of youth ages 13-17 who currently consider themselves non-religious and lists the faith tradition in which they grew up. Three main Christian categories exist: Catholic, Protestant, and "Just Christian". The Just Christian category, in the author's mind, represents youths where church attendance was nominal. 22% of non-religious youths were Catholic, 22% Protestant, and 20% Just Christian.
The Protestant category is broken down by denomination, and Baptists represent 9%, or 41% of identified Protestants. 9% of youth today who consider themselves non-religious were raised Baptist.
This simply could be due to the sheer volume of Baptists in the country, as Luthern is second place at 4% and Methodist and Pentecostal at 2%. Whatever the reason, it is not something to be proud of and needs to be recognized.
Next was a quote by a non-religious 17 year old interviewed for the project and book. He had a pretty good life going, although it was hard for awhile, and was raised as a nominal Catholic. One observation he made during the conversation about his turn-offs from church was "I often see people get stuck into trying to find the truth in religion and they shut out the world around them."
I had two professors and a Bible study leader in the past two days discuss Truth versus many truths, and thus I've been wrestling with this whole Truth deal. In our post-modern age, many folks subscribe to a notion that what works for others may not work for them, and that's fine. Many in the evangelical side cling to Truth and approach evangelism with a "here's what you don't have, I have it, and you need it" mentality. Bible bashers - with the love of Jesus, of course. That tactic does not have much chance succeeding when put against a person who believes in multiple truths. You lose their respect, you come across as arrogant, and any chance of seed-planting is gone.
Now, I'm not saying good-ole evangelism should cease - I believe it still has a place at the table for outreach as many folks are looking for a solid and firm answer. However, there are multiple forms of evangelism, and one way is to engage folks where they are at and then share stories of God's work and help them come to Christ.
I'm hoping this little web thing I'm starting on the side will help reach out to folks who live a big chunk of their lives online. Tactics that worked 50 years ago, 25 years ago, or even 5 years ago need to be re-thought - not for the sake of merely trying something new for the novelty of the thing or to disrespect tradition, but we need to re-evaluate their effectiveness, as well as their theology. Website outreach is one way of evangelism that needs to be fully understood and utilized.
So yeah - Truth, many truths, and how to convey Christ in a post-modern world. Who said this was easy? :)
As Forrest Gump says: that's all I have to say about that.