With the advent of the Coronavirus—COVID-19—pandemic, the world is facing an increasingly challenging time. This biblical pestilence is taking lives, altering lifestyles, impacting our economy, and challenging our families and culture. Beyond anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes, this pandemic’s impact, while seemingly draconian for the moment, could well extend for many months. This means that our civil and church leaders are not only immediately faced with difficult choices, but may be facing a longer-term challenge as the U.S. and world population is faced with a deadly and invisible enemy.
Well-known social science researcher George Barna introduced brand-new research about Americans’ worldview on the American Pastors Network’s (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net) popular, live, daily radio program “Stand in the Gap Today” last week.
APN President and “Stand in the Gap Today” host Sam Rohrer said the program was aptly named “The True Deficit: Americans with a Biblical Worldview.”
“In recent days, many more than before have become deeply concerned about the country’s national debt, as the government is set to spend $2 trillion to provide needed aid to Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic,” Rohrer said. “Yet I would suggest that before budget deficits, before deep political infightings and before the moral crumblings of our culture, there is first a deficit in our relationship with God—a deficit of spiritual understanding and a deficit of how to view life and living from God’s perspective. This is the root of our national and cultural problems, the root of our pandering politicians and salivating citizens who only wish for more and bigger government, the root of our complacent churches and passive pulpits.”
Throughout the program, Rohrer and Barna discussed the key findings of “The American Worldview Inventory,” which Barna led in his role at the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University (ACU). The research is the first wave of what will be an annual survey. The assessment is based on 51 worldview questions, examining both beliefs and behavior, which were provided to a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults.
Barna has called the research the “most sophisticated nationwide survey of worldview conducted in the United States.” Results include the following:
- Although 7 out of 10 Americans consider themselves to be Christian, just 6% actually possess a biblical worldview.
- Just one-fifth of those attending evangelical Protestant churches (21%) have a biblical worldview, as compared to one-sixth of those attending charismatic or Pentecostal churches (16%). The study finds even smaller proportions in mainline Protestant (8%) or Catholic (1%) churches.
- The number of American adults holding a biblical worldview has declined by 50% over the past quarter century.
- Regarding the youngest adult generation, the numbers are even more startling. A mere 2% of those 18 to 29 years old possess a biblical worldview.
“The fact that fewer than one out of five born-again adults hold a biblical worldview highlights the extensive decline of core Christian principles in America,” Barna said.
Among the differentiating factors between the new study and previous research, he noted, is the more robust measurement of action.
“In the American Worldview Inventory, we measure not just beliefs, but also the application of those beliefs—our behavior—because people do what they believe,” Barna added. “If you truly believe something, you integrate into how you live, and your lifestyle reflects those beliefs. As a result, our research always balances examining both what we believe to be true with how we translate such beliefs into action.”
Going forward, Barna will be a regular monthly guest on “Stand in the Gap Today.” He has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media development, research and ministry. He founded the Barna Research Group in 1984 (now The Barna Group) and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture before selling it in 2009. He has written more than 50 books and his work is frequently cited as an authoritative source by the media.
by Sam Rohrer
This morning the Lord brought a practical illustration to my mind that I trust will help encourage you as it did me —-from just a little thing in life. While listening to our Pastor’s devotional this morning, he reminded us of the practical application of Eccl 3:1 where Solomon the Preacher, wisely said, to ‘everything there is a season’. Indeed, that is true. In everything God’s hand is evident, His power and truth can be seen and His timing and planning perfect, if we but open our eyes and see.
On Friday I was outside raking leaves, trimming berry bushes and enjoying the sunshine of God’s creation. In the front flowerbed as you know is the bird bath. Last Fall I removed the basin from the pedestal and leaned it against the well casing to protect it during the freezing and thawing of winter. I was ready to put the basin back on the pedestal when I noticed that peeking from behind the basin were green daffodil tips that looked like all the other strong and blooming plants around it. I was excited that perhaps behind this cement basin I would find a large clump of healthy and ready to bloom daffodils.
I proceeded to pick up the cement bird bath basin and to my amazement, there was a very large clump of daffodils with the tips in bud waiting to bloom in a few days. Here’s where God showed me an eternal Biblical Truth that can apply to each of us who have a fear of God and are being redirected in our lives and thoughts during this Coronavirus epidemic. This is what I’d like to share with you.
When I put the basin back on the pedestal, I saw daffodils, as tall as all the others, with stems, and buds about to bloom. But here’s the lesson. As soon as I removed the basin which had provided a shield for the daffodils, they immediately fell over. Growing in the shadow of the basin, blocked from the sun, the stalks were yellow and white, full of potential, identical DNA as the those growing in the full sun, yet unable to stand erect. Protected and shielded from the wind, the sun and the pressures of normal life, these daffodils were still daffodils. They had God-designed purpose and potential but could never realize all that God had intended hidden behind the basin. The tips I saw peeking out from behind the basin were as green as the others around, and they would have bloomed as vibrantly yellow as the others, But, when the artificial protections of the basin were removed, they were unable to stand.
You can see the lesson I’m sure. The winds, the beating rain, the sun and normal life which confronts us all are necessary for strength and resilience, for color and for beauty, as God intends for us. This Coronavirus with its threat of pain or death, economic hardship and uncertainty for some and an altered lifestyle for all could well be that bird bath basin.
The removal of certain normal ‘guarantees, assumptions, and protections we’ve enjoyed are nice, but removing of them is part of God’s plan. There’s a season for everything. There’s a reason for everything. Therefore, be anxious for nothing. Consider the lilies of the field… Our Father above knows our needs. He will take care of us.
Now back to the daffodils, the pictures I took this morning still shows a weakly clump of daffodils. However, when I removed the basin two days ago the daffodils were exposed to the sun and wind for the first time. They had no choice in the matter. Yet, I as the gardener decided that the basin needed to be placed back in position for its good and the value it would be for the birds who use it and the beauty it affords for us when we look at it. These daffodils had their security removed and some would say, how sad. Yet, their God designed beauty was being prevented and they now have a chance to stand up, turn their natural color, and open their blooms to the world. I suppose that within another week, they will be standing stronger and greener than they are now.
God’s purpose for us in this life is to reflect the beauty and the strength, the hope and glory of our Creator. Difficulty and less than pleasant circumstances are often how God designs His Perfect Plan to evidence to the world around the power of His Saving grace and wonderful Plan of Redemption to be shown through us.
I pray that as we continue to face Coronavirus disruptions, we’ll thank God for Who He is, all He does, and pray that we can reflect His magnificent glory. For everything there is a season…
by Dr. Gary Dull**
Originally posted on the Christian Post website HERE.
In the past few weeks, people all around the world have become familiar with coronavirus (COVID-19), which has resulted in great fear and concern by many. And just when we think we have learned all there is to know about COVID-19, a new day comes, and we find out something else that results in even greater concern. Only God knows how serious this virus is and how many people will be infected by it in the near future.
As a pastor, I have had many come to me with concerns about how COVID-19 can and should be approached. In addition, I have received numerous suggestions from various ministry, medical and governmental sources offering guidelines to adapt what eventually may bring a resolve to this tragic worldwide situation.
I thank God for those in the medical science field who are searching for a solution to COVID-19. I am also grateful for political leaders who are attempting to provide direction that will keep the general citizenry informed, calm and peaceful. But I realize that those of us who are in pastoral ministry have a great responsibility before God to provide the spiritual leadership necessary to guide America through this tragic circumstance.
Certainly, there is no lack of secular advice being given as to how to approach COVID-19. But I believe the ultimate approach should be from the biblical perspective that presents God’s way of dealing with this issue. Yes, we need to look at COVID-19 through the eyes of a biblical worldview.
One passage of Scripture to consider is Psalm 91, which teaches how God takes care of His own. Take time to read all 16 verses of this precious passage. To summarize the psalm, we are told that those who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ dwell in the inner sanctum of the presence of God, who protects them as a mother bird cares for her young under her wings. The promise is that no evil shall befall them because God will keep them in all of their ways. Through God’s grace, love and mercy, He will “set them on high” and show them his salvation that involves the deliverance through whatever may come their way. This applies to COVID-19 and all other trials of life.
Realizing God’s promise to provide for His own as taught in Psalm 91, and then trusting God to keep His Word, as He always does, will erase the greatest of all fear, anxiety and panic in the hearts of the deeply concerned.
So how does one get to the place of trusting God and seeing His provision? Perhaps remembering the following facts about God will help.
- God is in control. So depend upon Him to do what is right.
- God has a purpose. So watch for Him to work.
- God will provide. So trust in Him to deliver.
- God has a mission. So declare His truth abroad.
- God has a remedy. So praise Him for what He will do.
Even though there is a lot of advice being given in the world as to how to approach COVID-19, the sooner one focuses on Who God is, what God expects and how God works, and then is convinced of the fact that God causes, allows and directs all things according to His sovereign plan, the more one will experience the strength, hope, peace, comfort and confidence that only God can provide.
As Philippians 4:6,7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Yes, those who follow that comforting admonition from Scripture will surely experience all the provision of God that is needed to face COVID-19 or any other troublesome issue that will come upon us in life.
Remember the words of the old hymn written by Civilla D. Martin that says:
“Be not dismayed what-e’re be-tide, God will take care of you.
Beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you.
“Through days of toil when heart does fail, God will take care of you.
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
“All you may need he will provide, God will take care of you.
Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.”
**Gary G. Dull is executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, board member of the American Pastors Network and co-host of APN’s “Stand in the Gap Today” radio program. He pastors Faith Baptist Church of Altoona.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has motivated some state officials to impose restrictions on the gathering of large numbers of people in one place at a time, including in a house of worship. Unlike other, voluntary restrictions self-imposed by organizations such as the NCAA or the NBA, these state-mandated restrictions carry the power of law, violating them may lead to legal consequences.
Church and state have an opportunity to work together to reduce the impact of the virus on our communities while encouraging calm and preserving liberty. We offer the following guidance:
- Religious institutions should continue to serve their local communities. America’s churches and religious institutions have played a central role in caring for their local community throughout history. Whether that is through acts of mercy, providing shelter, or simply being a source of encouragement and peace in times of crisis, America’s religious institutions should continue to be source of strength through service to their local community, especially as their communities may be particularly burdened during this pandemic.
- Temporary, evenly applied restrictions may be permissible. Government may not substantially burden the free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling reason for doing so, and even then, it must use the least burdensome approach that achieves that compelling interest. Temporary action to reduce the spread of a global pandemic is almost certainly a compelling reason, so long as the government is not treating religious institutions unfairly compared with how it treats other comparable gatherings. For instance, if state officials require churches to ensure that each service has no more than 250 persons, but officials do not require a nearby theater to do likewise, the state may have engaged in religious discrimination.
- Extraordinary state action to limit the peaceful gathering of American citizens must be temporary. Permanent restrictions on the peaceful assembly of American citizens—and especially those gathered to exercise their religion— violate the U.S. Constitution and are not permissible. As they have throughout history, churches and America’s religious institutions will play a key role in providing care during this global pandemic.
Going to church on Sunday morning with family has been part of the American culture for generations. But Sunday morning traditions are changing, along with attitudes and habits, as well as wants and needs, regarding church attendance.
For these reasons, the American Pastors Network (APN) is particularly interested in new Barna Research on “Five Trends Defining Americans’ Relationship to Churches.” Some of the trends include “church hopping,” differing opinions on the value of church, expectations about the outcomes of going to church, the importance of church on younger generations and the perception of the Church’s relevance to the community.
APN President Sam Rohrer says the drastic changes in people’s connections to their churches dramatically impact pastors.
“Nearly every pastor in America will likely report that the nation’s ‘church culture’ has shifted significantly over the past 20 years,” Rohrer said. “No longer is a deep, family connection to a local church the norm. In a society where we experience on-demand technology and up-to-the-minute communication, the wants and needs of churchgoers have changed as well. This affects pastors, not only in how they lead and preach, but in how they work to engage people to spread the message of the Gospel.
“Because of these cultural shifts,” he added, “pastors experience challenges that are new and foreign to many of them. It can be a constant struggle to ‘figure out’ what people want when they attend church. What moves them to action and what causes them to stay and be engaged?”
For decades, Barna has conducted research specifically on churches and church leaders, uncovering what they and others believe about their role in the church, as well as shedding light on their concerns and aspirations for both the local church. The most recent study on trends is part of Barna’s State of the Church 2020 project, a year-long examination of the spiritual and religious trends that define American life.
The five uncovered trends include the following:
- Nearly 2 in 5 churchgoers report regularly attending multiple churches. Declining church loyalty—or “church hopping”—is becoming more common, Barna says. While a majority of churchgoers tends to stick with a single congregation (63% churched adults, 72% practicing Christians), a sizable minority is at least occasionally attending other churches, including nearly 2 in 5 churched adults (38%) and one-quarter of practicing Christians (27%).
- Churchgoers are divided on the value of church. Another element of the churchgoing landscape is the paradoxical perceptions that churchgoers hold of church itself, Barna reports. Says Barna President David Kinnaman, “Those who frequent worship services do so largely because of personal enjoyment, but many churchgoers also readily admit that they believe people are tired of church as usual.”
- Churchgoers experience—and have come to expect—positive emotions and outcomes by going to church. Overall, churched adults say they leave worship services feeling inspired (37%), encouraged (37%), forgiven (34%), as though they have connected with God or experienced his presence (33%) and challenged to change something in their life (26%), every time.
- Church membership is still a common practice and is correlated with positive outcomes—but its importance is declining among younger churchgoers. Of those who attend church at least every six months, a little over half (54%) report being an official member at their place of worship, with 37% reporting they regularly attend but are not members. Practicing Christians show deeper commitment, with 71% noting they are members and 26% claiming regular attendance without membership. Generationally, Boomers are more likely than both Gen X and millennials to be formal members of their congregation, with nearly 7 in 10 churched Boomers (68% vs. 48% churched millennials and 51% churched Gen X) confirming membership. Younger generations of churchgoers were also more likely to mention “not applicable,” which suggests that the category of membership isn’t even part of their church’s nomenclature.
- The perception of the Church’s relevance to the community is under question—especially among non-Christians. While practicing Christians firmly believe that Christian churches have a strong community impact (66% very positive, 28% somewhat positive), the rest of the U.S. population is not as sure. Only 27% agree that churches have a very positive impact—the same percentage who say it has no affect at all. Non-Christians, meanwhile, are inclined toward indifference (39% no impact) or more willing to see harm in churches’ local contributions (8% very negative, 10% somewhat negative). These numbers challenge the church’s place in society, Barna says.
What’s on the heart of America’s pastors? What are their concerns, fears, worries and aspirations for their churches?
The research found that of all pastoral concerns, the top—at 51%—was reaching a younger audience.
APN President Sam Rohrer says this revealing response is likely due to several reasons.
“It’s not surprising that pastors are most concerned about reaching the young generation,” Rohrer said. “From a very practical standpoint, they are the future of the church. They will be making business, education and political decisions for years to come. Secondly, additional Barna research shows that the number of millennials who hold a biblical worldview is miniscule, at just 4%. Therefore, there’s an urgency to bring this young generation back into the church’s fold and to equip them with the tools needed to know their own faith and share it with others. And third, pastors have the serious task of ministering to young adults who are raising children of their own in a very complex culture. As these young families grow, a biblical worldview and sound faith is of utmost importance.”
For decades, Barna has conducted research specifically on U.S. church leaders, uncovering what they and others believe about their role in the church, as well as shedding light on their concerns and aspirations for both the local church and the church in the U.S.
The recent findings are part of Barna’s State of the Church 2020 project, which discovered the following insights when presented with a list of possible challenges facing their church today:
- Half of Protestant pastors noted that “reaching a younger audience” (51%) is a major issue for their ministry. Just over one-third of pastors (34%) marks this statement as a top three concern for their church, with 12% noting it as the top concern.
- Half of pastors also agree that “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” is a major issue facing their local church (50%). Of all the pastors who affirm this statement, 2 in 5 (40%) say it falls within their top three concerns, with 14% agreeing it is their largest concern.
- “Low spiritual maturity among churchgoers” (27% in 2017 vs. 8% in 1992) has been an increasing pain point for pastors over the years. Meanwhile, the practice of evangelism has fallen out of favor even with young adults who are practicing Christians.
- Overall, other top concerns include “declining or inconsistent volunteering” (36%), “stagnating spiritual growth” (34%), “declining attendance” (33%), “biblical illiteracy” (29%), “declining or unpredictable giving patterns” (28%), “lack of leadership training and development” (23%), “not reflecting the demographic of the community” (21%) and “divisions within the church” (12%).
For Christians, says American Pastors Network President Sam Rohrer, defending marriage between one man and one woman may seem easy. Whether examined historically, physiologically, emotionally, economically or morally, biblical marriage is best.
“But the moral argument is strongest because it precedes and underpins all others,” Rohrer says.
As the nation observes National Marriage Week Feb. 7-14, APN hopes all couples—married or soon-to-be-married—will consider five moral principles of marriage that Christians must not only understand and live out but also nurture and defend in the culture.
- Marriage is God’s idea.
God’s plan is best because God alone is Truth, Creator and Judge.
“Our opinion on marriage doesn’t really matter,” Rohrer says. “We have no vote, but we do have a choice. As the Source of all Authority, God’s plan for male and female, marriage, human sexuality, children and family prevails. Only He has the right to legitimately define it and to demand that we observe it.”
- God’s plan establishes biblical marriage as foundational for strong families.
Biblical marriage is the cornerstone of authority in human society.
“God’s foundation for societal order is upheld first by the pillar of family authority, then civil, then church authority—all nurtured by God’s purpose and limitation for each,” notes Rohrer. “No nation can be blessed by God without strong families. No family can be strong without a strong marriage at the center. And no marriage can be strong without following God’s plan for marriage.”
- No other combination besides one man and one woman works in God’s plan.
This principle presumes one man and one woman, united and committed, as one flesh—before God.
“Therefore,” Roher adds, “no government possesses the authority to legally alter or redefine marriage or family. It has no more moral or jurisdictional authority to redefine marriage than to declare natural law invalid or declare immoral actions, such as theft, murder or rape, moral.”
- To preserve the integrity of marriage and the family, it must be kept holy.
Heterosexual infidelity, sex outside marriage, homosexuality or marriage between multiple men or woman all violate God’s order.
“No violation or variation of marriage or engagement in human sexuality, other than within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman, is acceptable without bringing predictable consequences to individuals, communities and nations,” Rohrer says.
- Ephesians 5 gives truth about marriage.
God declares that physical marriage between one man and one woman is holy and mirrors the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church.
“God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ and His relationship to the church is the picture of true love and unity between God and man—and why all efforts to redefine God’s design is a direct attack on God Himself, His plan of redemption and Jesus Christ,” Rohrer concludes.
Rohrer adds that the American Pastors Network emphasizes the authority of Scripture for deciding all issues, including marriage, and urges pastors and parents to defend and live out God’s model in their pulpits and in their homes.
In this vein, APN hopes thousands will join the ministry for its national prayer movement called “52 Tuesdays,” in which the faithful from around the country will come together to pray for the moral and spiritual renewal of our nation every Tuesday leading up to Election Day 2020.
This dedicated season of prayer not only addresses the important 2020 presidential election but also other topics close to Christians’ hearts, such as marriage and family. Prayer warriors nationwide can add their name to the growing “52 Tuesdays” list here.
The “Stand in the Gap” television program from the American Pastors Network, which is already reaching millions of potential viewers on several networks, is now available to about a quarter of a million additional households after debuting on the Christian entertainment streaming service Pure Flix on Feb. 1.
“Stand in the Gap TV” considers transcending complex and divisive cultural issues, seemingly difficult to navigate, from a biblical worldview perspective while bringing clarity to cultural confusion and making sense of the nonsense around us.
APN President Sam Rohrer and “Stand in the Gap TV” co-host said the new platform allows many more faith-minded families to consider cultural issues from a biblical perspective.
“The American Pastors Network is thrilled, humbled and honored that our ‘Stand in the Gap TV’ program now has the opportunity to reach so many more Christian families through Pure Flix,” Rohrer said. “Families with a biblical worldview are searching for programming that will strengthen their faith and help them to defend their beliefs on a variety of issues in our complex culture. We give God all the glory for opening doors to grow ‘Stand in the Gap’ programming through the American Pastors Network.”
The first “Stand in the Gap TV” series available on Pure Flix will be episodes in the “Crisis: Immigration” series, which began streaming Feb. 1. This series that focuses this misunderstood and emotional issue—one that is no longer political but also religious—may be found in the “Recently Added” lineup of programming or subscribers may search for “Stand in the Gap.”
Additional “Stand in the Gap TV” series to air on Pure Flix will include the following:
- “The Battle For Israel”—Feb. 15
- “Islam in America”—March 1
- “Prayer & American Revival”—April 1
Besides the “Stand in the Gap TV” programming, Pure Flix will air “Stand in the Gap Minute” videos weekly on its Facebook Watch and Facebook Uplift & Serve pages. Viewers will be pointed toward the PureFlix.com home page to watch the videos with short snippets of biblical truth on a variety of topics.
Pure Flix’s mix of family-friendly and Christian entertainment includes movies for all ages, kid’s animated titles, documentaries, inspirational and much more. All titles are delivered in the highest resolution possible with a user-friendly experience on a variety of devices. Learn more about a free trial of Pure Flix here.
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