Over the last year I have been conducting an informal survey of area pastors, asking a few basic questions regarding whether or not the clergymen believe that the majority of their congregants possess a biblical worldview. The church leaders in question represented a cross-section of denominations here in the Bible Belt. Theologically, these pastors were a mixed bag, ranging from a pair of deeply conservative Church of Christ pastors to a female priest in the Episcopal Church, who described herself as a “Buddho-Episco-Pagan.
The reasons for conducting this informal research was to see if I could get a handle on the relative importance given by area churches to worldview development and whether or not the pastors of these churches felt they were successful. An underlying motivation for the survey centers on the fact that I believe having a solid, biblical worldview is imperative to fostering an effective walk of faith for individual Christians and for the Church to fulfill its mission in the world.
Worldview development is an area that is often overlooked in our churches today. In the more conservative denominations, pastors assume because sermons and church teachings are typically Bible-based, their congregants somehow absorb a biblical worldview by osmosis. In the traditionally moderate and liberal churches, the problem is different. Although these churches base their services on a passage from scripture, by the time the worship service is completed, the biblical teaching has been long-forgotten, if it was noticed in the first place. The majority of liberal churches, as well as a significant number of moderate, mainline denominations, down play the Bible and fear being viewed as antiquated by the contemporary spiritual seeker. The important factor to note, however, is both conservative and liberal churches seem to have failed in educating their congregants in the fundamentals of worldview development.
One Baptist pastor I interviewed told me that he didn’t have to worry about his congregants having a biblical worldview because he “pounded it into their heads twice on Sunday and every Wednesday night.” A friend of mine has been a member of this particular Baptist Church for 14 years and, in fact, is a deacon. In my frequent spiritual discussions with my buddy I can safely say that his worldview is far from biblical. Further, he told me that for years he plugs in his CD player when the preacher begins his sermons. When I asked him why he did this he openly replied:
“Personally, I’d rather listen to Steppenwolf that be yelled at for forty-five minutes.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the Buddho-Episco-Pagan priest told me that she used the formal Episcopalian Lectionary when designing the content for the Sunday Bulletin, but rarely gave sermons related the scriptures for that day.
“I find that sort of narrow, rigid focus kind of like being in jail,” she stated. “I print it because I have to. Personally, I think it is cool if my congregation knows about the Bible, but I don’t think it is an appropriate guide for living in this day and time.”
Why is a biblical worldview so important? Let’s begin with the reality that, whether we are aware of it or not, we all possess a worldview. For most of us, our worldview was formed from an amalgam of sources, parents, teachers, friends, religious leaders, the media, and so on. Unfortunately, for most of us, our worldview remains an unconscious commodity. Few of us have consciously taken the time to sit down and take a deep look at what we really believe and hold to be true. This is unfortunate because our worldview is the matrix through which we interpret events and experiences, and further, determines how we respond to those events and experiences.
If you are a person that rejects the Bible, then having a biblical worldview is moot. However, if you identify yourself as a Christian, possessing a worldview based on biblical principles is a highly significant matter. It doesn’t matter if you are a believer that holds the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God, or if you have a softer view, seeing the Bible as a human product, but authoritative for Christians. Either way, the Bible should be the foundation of how you see and respond to the world.
Christian researcher George Barna, in his book Think Like Jesus, defines what constitutes a biblical worldview and speaks to its importance:
A biblical worldview is a means of experiencing, interpreting, and responding to reality in light of biblical perspective. This life lens provides a personal understanding of every idea, opportunity, and experience based on identification and application of relevant biblical principals so that every choice we make may be consistent with God’s principals and commands.
We live in a fast-paced, complex world which is filled with pressure and characterized by rapidly changing values. Although many people deny the fact, our culture has to a large extent lost its moral compass. Considering these factors, Barna’s words ring loudly with urgency, especially for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. It is critical that we recognize, both individually and congregationally, the practical importance of developing and maintaining a biblical worldview. Of even more critical significance is our need to base our everyday choices and actions on that internal compass.
It is incumbent upon the Church to understand the necessity of incorporating discipleship programs focused on worldview development. Without these innovative programs many Christ-followers may continue the recent trend, borne out by Barna’s research, of incorporating the views of the dominant culture and becoming indistinguishable from the non-Christian population.
As the Body of Christ moves forward in the new century, it is increasingly imperative that the Church redouble its discipleship efforts, inaugurating educational efforts to foster a worldview based on biblical principles in all of us who call ourselves Christian. Without a biblical worldview, the Church universal cannot carry out its mission to bring the kingdom of God out of the spiritual realm and set its foundation securely on the earth.