August 03, 2023
One of the most astonishing changes wrought by the pandemic is its impact on the psyche of Christians. Of course, everyone’s life was turned upside down by the deadly virus and its impact. However, the group you would think best able to handle this earth-shaking event would be those whose faith is grounded in something, and Someone, not of this earth. Yet that was not the case. It is now clear that followers of Christ need to rediscover God’s purpose for their lives.
One reason for this shortfall is the lack of biblical worldview among many professing Christians. George Barna, called “the most quoted person in the Christian church today” because of his 40 years of research about the Christian faith in America, is especially attuned to the question of Americans’ worldview. He defines a worldview as “the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual filter an individual uses to experience, interpret, and respond to reality.” For followers of Christ, that worldview should be grounded in orthodox biblical principles such as the goodness of creation, the reality of sin, the remedy through the blood of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like the ocean retreating as the tide goes out, leaving what was once beneath the water exposed, perhaps the pandemic has revealed that many Christians were, in fact, following the world more than Christ.
For those without a biblical worldview, creation is random rather than good. What is wrong in the world is grounded not in sin but by oppression, or an unjust political system. The solutions to society’s woes are found through money, redistributed power, or laws. The power for transformation is dependent on education rather than the indwelling grace of God’s Spirit.
Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center, where Dr. Barna is the Director of Research, annually publishes a Cultural Worldview Inventory. It gives us a snapshot of worldviews based on how Americans answer certain questions. Far too often, it illustrates how those who say they follow Christ don’t think like Him. For example, fewer than half of born-again Christians now believe life is sacred—down from an already low 60% just three years ago.
It won’t surprise you that only 4% of Americans now hold a biblical worldview, according to Barna. That is, only four out of 100 Americans believe that: absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is a real being or force; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.
With so few Christians having a solid, biblical understanding of the world, perhaps it is not surprising that so many have lost their sense of purpose. In 2020, Barna asked Americans if they had a unique, God-given purpose for their lives. 88% of born-again Americans—defined as those who say they’re a sinner and the only way to be saved is to trust Christ alone for their salvation—said yes, God has a purpose for their lives. Just three years later, only 46% of born-agains still believe that. That is now the same percentage of Americans as a whole. Coming out of the pandemic, almost half of those who claim to be the most connected to the faith no longer think there is a God-inspired purpose for their lives.
Why such a dramatic drop? Like the ocean retreating as the tide goes out, leaving what was once beneath the water exposed, perhaps the pandemic has revealed that many Christians were, in fact, following the world more than Christ. Thomas a’ Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ, “If thou longest too inordinately for the things which are now, thou shalt lose those which are eternal and heavenly.” Or as Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” It is clear that one of the greatest losses in the post-COVID Church is purpose. It is critical that we have a renewed focus on the fundamentals to make sure those who claim to be followers of Christ are truly doing so, with purpose.
Stuart Kellogg, a WBS alum (’06) and current Trustee has written The Post Covid Church: An Action Plan to Thrive Not Just Survive and hosts “What Now? The Post Covid Church Podcast.” Stuart is also a commissioned Fellow with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.