Some of my readers are familiar with the Barna Group founded by George Barna and the important work they do by surveys that tell us where the Church and its members are. One of those areas of the survey is on basic discipleship, including knowledge of basic doctrine. My readers can do an internet search of Barna and easily find the progression of studies from year to year. My Anglican friend form Graduate School days from 49 years ago, David Virtue (who publishes Virtue online) sent a summary of an update. As usual, it was sad and alarming. Even such basic knowledge as salvation by grace versus works was unclear among the Evangelicals surveyed. A majority said that one could be saved by being a good person!
It raised some questions. I am puzzled. Where did the pastors go to Bible school or seminary if they did? Did they not think it important to emphasize basic truths so that everyone would know the truth and would at least be able to answer the basic questions of our beliefs. When I was 12/ ½ I started attending an evangelical Reformed Church congregation. I was not there for a month before I learned that salvation was only by grace through faith. I prayed to receive Yeshua by faith, April 1960. One of the first verses we had to memorize in Sunday school was Titus 3:5, 6, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us.” Eph. 2:8,9 were next, “By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is not by works lest any man should boast.” Forgive the King James. Of course, there was John 3:16. When I was 15, I attended catechism classes every Saturday morning for a few months. We memorized the answers to questions about our faith which established basic doctrine in our hearts. I also recalled outreaches some 30 years ago. There was a two question test. “Why when you die should God let you into his heaven?” Of course, it was on the basis of grace and the atonement for our sins by the death of Yeshua. There was the basic presentation of the Gospel in the Four Spiritual Laws, which I would correct by a more Kingdom emphasis. However, the basics were there. I wrote Growing to Maturity to disciple in basic knowledge and growth. Then knowing that catechism was very helpful I wrote the Growing to Maturity Primer as a catechism in a Messianic Jewish contest.
What happened? Barna is not even talking about deep discipleship but that people in Evangelical Churches are not clear on the Gospel itself and salvation by grace through faith. What do pastors in such churches teach? Friends, help me out here? How can congregations really grow if the people do not understand the Gospel?