TRENDS & More Than 3 in 4 Americans Say U.S. Moral Values Are “Getting Worse” According to New #GallupResearch

by Justin McCarthy, Gallup, 6/1/18..

… Forty-nine percent of Americans say the state of moral values in the U.S. is “poor” — the highest percentage in Gallup’s trend on this measure since its inception in 2002. Meanwhile, 37% of U.S. adults say moral values are “only fair,” and 14% say they are “excellent” or “good.”

Line graph: How Americans rate state of U.S. moral values -- excellent, good, only fair, poor? Highs: exc/good: 23% (2011); poor: 49% (‘18).

These data are from Gallup’s annual Values and Morals poll, conducted May 1-10.

Americans have always viewed the state of U.S. morals more negatively than positively. But the latest figures are the worst to date, with a record-high 49% rating values as poor and a record-tying-low 14% rating them as excellent or good.

In earlier polls on the measure, Americans were about as likely to rate the country’s moral standing as only fair as they were to say it was poor. But in 10 of the past 12 annual polls since 2007, Americans have been decidedly more likely to rate it as poor…

More Than Three in Four Americans Say U.S. Moral Values Are “Getting Worse”

When asked whether U.S. moral values are getting better or worse, Americans have consistently said they are worsening, and that remains the case today. Currently, 77% say moral values in the U.S. are getting worse, while 18% say they are getting better.

Views of the direction of the country’s morals were slightly more negative from 2006 to 2008, however, when 81% to 82% said the state of moral values was declining.

Line graph: Americans' views of U.S. moral values’ direction: 18% getting better, 77% getting worse (2018). High, getting worse: 82% (‘07).

Read more at … http://news.gallup.com/poll/235211/half-americans-say-moral-values-poor.aspx

ETHICS & Billy Graham’s Modesto Manifesto covered more than we realize…

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My friend and colleague Nelson Searcy has written a good article explaining that Billy Graham’s Modest Manifesto (ethical guidelines for their ministry) is much more than people realize. Take a look at this brief excerpt of Nelson’s insightful article.

“Billy Graham’s secrets to a scandal-free ministry“ by Nelson Searcy, Renegade Pastors Network, 3/27/18.

…For 80 years of ministry, Billy Graham stayed scandal-free.

… So in November 1948, Graham called the members of his evangelistic team to his hotel room during a crusade campaign in Modesto, California. “God has brought us to this point,” he said. “Maybe he is preparing us for something that we don’t know.”

He and his team identified the issues that had been stumbling blocks to evangelists — and ways to prevent them from happening again.

What emerged was a declaration of Biblical integrity that all church leaders can follow. The “Modesto Manifesto” was the pact that would set the standard for Billy Graham’s scandal-free ministry.

The Manifesto included four key principles to guard against:

– Financial Abuse
– Sexual Immorality
– Pride (specifically with relationship to other local churches)
– Lying and Deceit (specifically regarding publicity and reporting of attendance numbers)

No formal document was ever created . . . until now.

I know the impact this Manifesto of integrity can have on your ministry as well. It has made such an impact in my own life and ministry. So I decided to painstakingly research and assemble the four principles into a framable presentation — one that would be easy to follow and keep as a guide…

(To download Nelson’s analysis of the manifesto you must be a member of his Renegade Pastors Network. I am a member and would encourage you to check it out: https://renegadepastors.com )

CULTURE & Christ: 3 Lessons to Consider

by Bob Whitesel, excerpted with permission from Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon Press, 2006, pp. 55-57).

Lesson 1: Carefully investigate and examine elements of a culture.

Since modern culture is constantly adjusting and metamorphosing, the task of translating the Good News without surrendering its truth or disfiguring it is paramount and ongoing. This arduous task begins with thorough and careful examination of a culture. Anthropologist Paul Hiebert described culture as, “an integrated system of learned patterns of behavior, ideas and products characteristic of a society.”(1) Scrutiny of such an elaborate system is not for an immature Christian, since it requires investigating and evaluating a culture without being tainted by its more sordid elements.

However, a failure by Christian communicators to sufficiently investigate modern culture can make us look irrelevant. In an earlier book I interviewed Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California. Larry told me the phenomenal growth of the church was in part because he regularly studies modern culture by perusing secular business, entertainment, and lifestyle magazines. “If I don’t understand the business world, when a businessperson talks to me about his or her world, its like were using two different dictionaries.”(2) The use of disparate dictionaries can also dilute an exchange of ideas with the young culture.

Therefore stay current with today’s youth culture by cautiously scrutinizing their books, music, movies, music videos, computer games, web-sites, web-blogs, etc.. While the truths of the Good News must never be sacrificed nor altered, connecting and contrasting it with today’s youth culture can make it more comprehensible.

Lesson 2: Discriminate and sift elements of a culture.

There is a tension between Christ and culture that must be examined. Richard Niebuhr in his classic treatise Christ and Culture suggested that there are several ways to look at Christ’s interaction with culture.(3)

One is “Christ against culture” a view embraced by the early church father Tertullian. In this view culture is seen as evil, thus requiring Christians to withdraw and insulate themselves, resulting in a monastic response. Charles Kraft exposes three fallacies in this view, demonstrating it is not in keeping Paul’s view that “nothing is unclean of itself” (Romans 14:14).(4)

Another view Niebuhr called “Christ Above Culture” which he divided into sub-categories.(5)  “Christ Above Culture in Synthesis” was held by Thomas Aquinas and views Jesus as the restorer of institutions of true society. This view believes that Christianity will one day totally transform culture, perhaps into a millennial peace. In another sub-category, “Christ Above Culture in Paradox,” Christ is seen above but in such tension with culture that a messy, muddled relationship results. Martin Luther grappled with this perspective, as did modern writer Mike Yaconelli who called this “messy spirituality.”(6)

However, a more valid sub-category may be “Christ Above but Transformer of Culture.” Embraced by Augustine, John Calvin, and John Wesley this view sees culture as corrupt but convertible.(7)  Kraft built upon this his position called “Christ above but working through culture,” explaining that “God chooses the cultural milieu in which humans are immersed as the arena of his interaction with people.”(8) Eddie Gibbs further elaborates that “such an approach represents a deliberate self-limiting on the part of God in order to speak in understandable terms and with perceived relevance on the part of the hearer. He acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”(9)

If the “Christ above but working through culture” truly defines the tension and nexus between Christ and culture, then the job of the Christian communicator becomes challenging if not precarious. Therefore, our strategy must not conclude simply with step 1, investigating and examining culture, but also must continue through step 2, sifting and judging its elements. Here the prudent communicator must make qualitative judgments based upon Scripture, ethics, personal belief and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Lesson 3: Reject or affirm elements of culture.

The end result of this examination or sifting, must be a rejection of elements in conflict with Christ, but also an affirmation of those elements that are not so. I found that leaders of the organic church usually sift carefully through the movies, television shows, music, games, online resources and literature of young people. And they routinely explain in their sermons how God judges some aspects of postmodern culture, accepts other elements such as an emphasis on helping the needy, and has as a goal the transformation of the whole.(10)

The Christian communicator wishing to make the Good News relevant today must carefully examine the media barrage engulfing young people, understand its messages, while at the same time sifting elements that are opposed to Christ and identifying touchstones that can make connections with unchurched peopled. Freeway’s use of comedic film clips to underscore or juxtaposition God’s Word and contemporary culture has helped this organic congregation connect the Good News to unchurched young people.

Footnotes:

1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1983), p. 25.
2. Bob Whitesel, Growth By Accident, Death By Planning, op. cit., p. 26.
3. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1951). A second view is beyond the scope of our discussion. Labeled by Niebuhr “Christ of culture,” it was embraced by early Gnostic heretics. They interpreted Christ through cultural trends, rejecting any claims of Christ that conflicted with their culture. Counter to this, Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, or our ways his ways.
4. Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 105-106.
5. Kraft, ibid., pp. 108-115 sees five subdivisions of the “Christ Above Culture” position. However, for this discussion only three are required. The reader seeking more exhaustive insights will benefit from a careful exploration of Kraft’s work.
6. Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002). Yaconelli’s viewpoint has been popular among postmodern Christians, And, before his untimely death, Yaconelli was in demand as a lecturer. Young people often saw in his perspective one more in keeping with their untidy journey towards discipleship. To understand the angst and anxiety many young people sense today between their Christian understanding and their vacillating demeanor, see Yaconelli’s insightful volume.
7. Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, p. 113.
8. ibid., p. 114.
9. Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, Mich,: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.
10. In my travels through the organic church, I found it’s leaders usually approached the rejection or affirmation of cultural elements in a circumspect and serious manner. Whether it was the “discothèque clubbers” of England who had to decide at what point youthful fashions became lewd, or the film clips that Freeway employed to illustrate a point; young organic leaders typically see the rejection of base elements of culture as not only required, but judicious.