July 1, 2022 Dr. Ed Hindson
Scripture is full of promises for those who follow Christ — both for the present and the future. Yet nearly a quarter way through the 21st century, the Church is facing some of its most dire challenges yet. Recent poll findings suggest it’s not just unbelievers who are cool towards the Bible and its teachings but also those who already identify as Christians. A newly released study from the Nashville-based Lifeway Research has found apathy inside the Church was cited as the most common “people dynamic” challenge facing pastors today.
Lifeway’s “Greatest Needs Of Pastors” study asked 1,000 Protestant pastors to identify the primary people dynamic challenges they face in their churches. Their overwhelming response? Apathy or lack of commitment. The survey found that three-quarters of pastors surveyed (75%) listed “People’s apathy or lack of commitment” when asked to identify the “people dynamics” they find challenging in their ministry. That was the only challenge that more than half of pastors identified. These appear to be self-identified followers of Jesus Christ apathetic to Christ’s Church.
Coming in a long second, third and fourth place in the survey were responses like “People’s strong opinions about nonessentials” (48%), “Resistance to change in the church” (46%) and “People’s political views” (44%). “It can be easy for a church member to check the box and say, ‘I’m doing some activities, I’m coming to church’ … and feel like they’re doing enough. And yet, if they are not participating, they’re really missing out on some pretty big parts,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell told The Christian Post.
The findings come as Christian apologist and author J. Warner Wallace has argued that apathetic views on spirituality — particularly among millennials and Generation Z — pose a greater threat to Christianity than atheism. These are views that aren’t specifically anti-Christian or anti-religion, but rather ambivalent towards Christianity or religion in general. Meanwhile, a Barna Group survey from 2018 suggests that more people in “Generation Z” — traditionally defined as those born between 1999 and 2015 — identify themselves as agnostic, atheist or not religiously affiliated than any other generation.
Apathy can also bleed into theology, with most Christian parents not having enough biblical literacy to even pass down to their children the most basic tenets of the faith, research suggests. A report released in April by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that parents of preteens “are in a state of spiritual distress” as American adherence to biblical Christianity fades. George Barna, director of research at the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian, said a paltry 2% of parents of preteens have a biblical worldview, largely because “parents … are too distracted or disinterested to acknowledge and address the parenting crisis.”
Researchers said those categorized as apatheists “simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religious in any form from their mental space.” Strictly speaking, apatheism is less theological and more attitudinal in nature. Instead of declaring a “lack of belief” in God, one could theoretically acknowledge the existence of God and still be disinterested. Since apatheism is a judgment or intellectual position on a type of belief and not a belief or disbelief in itself, proponents say it’s irrelevant for an apatheist whether God exists or not. This combination of apathy and resistance to change among Christians can often result in a stagnant fellowship and even a lack of evangelism.
Biblical Connection: Revelation 3:14- 16 states, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 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.” There is no place for apathy in the Christian life. Jesus demands that we bear fruit and this can only occur through following Him.
PRAY: Pray the American church will awake from its slumber and return back to its mission.