Wednesday, October 15, 2008

American Protestants Deviate From Biblical Discipleship Standards

Although only 17 percent of Protestant churchgoers in America demonstrate a "decent" level of spiritual maturity, a widespread recommitment to biblical standards has the potential to ignite revival, according to a new book by Brad Waggoner, vice president of B&H Publishing Group.

The 17 percent represents those who scored the equivalent of 80 percent or higher on a spiritual formation survey designed to measure key areas of Christian discipleship.

"Let’s not make things look worse or better than they are," Waggoner writes in The Shape of Faith to Come: Spiritual Formation and the Future of Discipleship, released by B&H Publishing Group, the publishing arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. "We must embrace the truth. We must set aside whatever self-centered or self-serving, biased filter we look through. No one is helped by our dodging or spinning the truth. Let’s own up to the facts and work on the solutions."

For the book, Waggoner surveyed – in May 2007 and again in May 2008 – 2,500 Protestants who attend church on a regular basis. Using an evaluation tool called the Spiritual Formation Inventory (SFI), he evaluated seven domains of spiritual formation among respondents.

The seven domains measured include learning truth, obeying God and denying self, serving God and others, sharing Christ, exercising faith, seeking God, and building relationships.
Waggoner said in an interview that a 30-year passion for spiritual formation drove him to write the book.

"I love to watch people be transformed by the power of the Gospel and the renewing impact of God’s Word," he said. "However, in observing many of our churches I have become very concerned about the lack of focus upon qualitative discipleship. Too many leaders and churches measure success by numbers rather than by the transformation of hearts, minds and character.

"The research that led to this book is a wake-up call for anyone who is serious about the biblical mandate to make disciples," he said.

Waggoner emphasized that the book prescribes a biblical standard for discipleship rather than simply reporting statistics. Each chapter presents a biblical norm and subsequently shows how Protestant churchgoers measure up.

"God’s redemptive plan ultimately leads toward heaven, but the journey between now and then is to be one of radical transformation," Waggoner said. "Way too many professed Christians seem to demonstrate little evidence of biblical spiritual formation. This book will explain what it is that God desires for His followers and how to move forward on the journey of transformation."

Read more of the book's findings in this article written by David Roach.

Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!