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How can we influence the world, when it is the world who is actually influencing our pastors, congregants and churches?

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Aaron MapesI'm not normally a huge fan of polls, but there was one that came out in May from Arizona Christian University that caught my attention almost immediately. The poll results claim that a shockingly low number of pastors, just 37%, hold to a biblical worldview. And among those who are "teaching" pastors, as well as those that work with young people, only 12% hold a biblical worldview. As skeptical as I am of polls, this certainly resonates with what we see happening in our churches and in our culture at this critical point in history.

Tragically, what follows from this should then not surprise us. In the same worldview inventory, researchers determined that a mere 6% of professing U.S. Christians hold a biblical worldview, including just 4% of parents. If pastors and churches lack a biblical worldview, people attending those churches will almost certainly be suffering the same fate. This troubles me greatly because it seems to echo the experience we're seeing in our culture, through social media, and unfortunately it fits perfectly with similar polls regarding the lack of biblical literacy among self-professing Christians. The obvious question is, "How can a Christian hold a biblical worldview if their knowledge of the Bible is lacking or nonexistent and if their primary means and reliance of understanding is coming from pastors and churches who also do not hold biblical worldviews?" The answer is simple: They can't.

So, if U.S. "Christians" do not hold a biblical worldview, what worldview do they hold? According to the survey, the answer is syncretism, or a blending of worldviews and ideas that individuals use based on their opinions and influences. This makes perfect sense when we see what is happening around us and why so many Christians and so many churches seem indistinguishable from the world. How can we influence the world, when it is the world who is actually influencing our pastors, congregants and churches?

As I was reading the Scripture this week in Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Timothy, some specific things from the Apostle Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, stood out to me explicitly.

People have itching ears. They are not as interested in what the Bible says as much as they are driven by their desires. Paul charges Timothy, a young pastor, to faithfully preach the word, for this purpose: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables." - Paul (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

2. We must teach the Truth. We must teach Jesus. Jesus makes the exclusive claim that He IS TRUTH (John 14:6). Paul tells us in Colossians 2:3 that in Jesus are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3) This implies, we need to faithfully teach Jesus, and he goes on to warn believers: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." - Paul (Colossians 2:8)

Pastors bear an immense role and responsibility to both know and teach the truth biblically and contextually. The unity of the Church actually depends upon faithful pastors teaching the word faithfully and equipping people of the work of ministry.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" - Paul (Ephesians 4:11-13)

So, what can we conclude? What steps can we take? First, and foremost, know the Truth. Abide in His word. Know Jesus, and know the word of God -- Deeply. Passionately. Intimately. Jesus tells us, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It's impossible to be a disciple if we do not know and obey Christ.

Second, we must exhort pastors and teachers to teach the Truth, and especially to young people! Two years ago, Stephanie and I started a discipleship group in our home targeted at young adults called Veritas (latin for truth). The focus of veritas is Jesus. He is the source of truth. We passionately study the Bible, and we're also currently watching the documentary "American Gospel: Christ Crucified." The students are loving it and are learning all kinds of things about worldview and how American Christianity has been influenced by culture. Great discussions have come from this!

Lastly, be equipped with Truth. Find a church and pastors who faithfully teach the word. If possible, consider homeschooling your children or enrolling them in a school that focuses on teaching the truth. Twenty-seven years ago, our church started Crook County Christian School for this purpose. We are a partnership with parents who desire that their children will learn their identity and purpose in Christ and that they will navigate and be equipped at this critical moment in culture. Knowing "how" to think, not just what to think.

Which brings us to our conclusion. Be in unity with the Truth. The world places a huge value on unity, and so do many Christians (and rightfully so). However, Truth is greater than unity, because Truth is the basis for unity. Biblically, we do not unify with what is false. For this reason, it is paramount for Christian unity that we know the truth and function from a biblical worldview.

Jesus calls us to be salt and light, a city on a hill. This is the Church. It stands apart from the world intentionally by design. Make sure, Christian, that your worldview matches the Bible and not your opinions or those influencing you. You must ground yourself and your family in Truth as never before as we link arm-in-arm with like-minded disciples for the Great Commission.

Aaron Mapes is the lead pastor of First Assembly of God. He can be reached at 541-447-7254.

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