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Be Alert!

Moriel Ministries Be Alert! has added this Blog as a resource for further information, links and research to help keep you above the global deception blinding the world and most of the church in these last days. Jesus our Messiah is indeed coming soon and this should only be cause for joy unless you have not surrendered to Him. Today is the day for salvation! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, - Psalms 95:7

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Be Alert! Communiqué: Teen and TwentySomething Christians Falling Away

Alert Focus: The Falling Away / Deception
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Matthew 24:11 "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.
Editorial Note: Some of these articles originally appeared in the December 11, 2006 edition of Moriel's Be Alert! email newsletter.
Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years THE BARNA RESEARCH GROUP - THE BARNA UPDATE - September 11, 2006 -- Ventura, CA – Transitions in life are rarely simple. Some of the most significant and complex shifts that people undergo occur during the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. An important part of that maturation is the refinement of people’s spiritual commitment and behavior. A new study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years – and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood. Teens Embrace Spirituality… Teenagers thrive on fresh experiences and new perspectives. The spiritual dimension gives teens a fertile ground for their explorations. Half of teens attend a church-related service or activity in a typical week. More than three-quarters discuss matters of faith with peers and three out of five teens attend at least one youth group meeting at a church during a typical three month period. One-third of teenagers say they participate in a Christian club on campus at some point during a typical school year. There is also a substantial amount of unorthodox spiritual activity: three-quarters of America’s teenaged youths have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity during their teen years (not including reading horoscopes). Still, one of the most striking findings from the research is the broad base of opportunities that Christian churches in America have with to work with teenagers. Overall, more than four out of five teens say they have attended a church for a period of at least two months during their teenage years (81%). This represents substantial penetration and significant prospects for influencing the nation’s 24 million teens. …But Disengagement Happens At the same time, the Barna research underscores how fleeting that influence may be: twentysomethings continue to be the most spiritually independent and resistant age group in America. Most of them pull away from participation and engagement in Christian churches, particularly during the “college years.” The research shows that, compared to older adults, twentysomethings have significantly lower levels of church attendance, time spent alone studying and reading the Bible, volunteering to help churches, donations to churches, Sunday school and small group involvement, and use of Christian media (including television, radio and magazines). In fact, the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying). Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith. For most adults, this pattern of disengagement is not merely a temporary phase in which they test the boundaries of independence, but is one that continues deeper into adulthood, with those in their thirties also less likely than older adults to be religiously active. Even the traditional impulse of parenthood – when people’s desire to supply spiritual guidance for their children pulls them back to church – is weakening. The new research pointed out that just one-third of twentysomethings who are parents regularly take their children to church, compared with two-fifths of parents in their thirties and half of parents who are 40-years-old or more.... Piecing Faith Together While twentysomethings often disengage from traditional religious expressions, faith and spirituality are hardly absent from their lives. The research also examined a number of significant realities about the spiritual journeys of young adults: - As for religious identity, most twentysomethings maintain outward allegiance to Christianity: 78% of twentysomethings say they are Christians, compared with 83% of teenagers. Although they are less likely than older generations to feel this way, most twentysomethings describe themselves as “deeply spiritual.” - Loyalty to congregations is one of the casualties of young adulthood: twentysomethings were nearly 70% more likely than older adults to strongly assert that if they “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church.” They are also significantly less likely to believe that “a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church.” - These attitudes explain other anomalies of twentysomething spirituality. Much of the activity of young adults, such as it is, takes place outside congregations. Young adults were just as likely as older Americans to attend special worship events not sponsored by a local church, to participate in a spiritually oriented small group at work, to have a conversation with someone else who holds them accountable for living faith principles, and to attend a house church not associated with a conventional church. Interestingly, there was one area in which the spiritual activities of twentysomethings outpaced their predecessors: visiting faith-related websites. ...
Bible-Based Youth Ministry Bumps Out Pop Culture THE CHRISTIAN POST - By Lillian Kwon - November 16, 2006 -- Sugarcoated, MTV-style youth ministry is over, Time magazine reported. The current trend that is packing teens in pews: Bible-based worship. Youth ministers have tried to engage teens in the church with a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging to initially attract the young crowd. The approach has successfully drawn a large number of youths to the pews. But it has failed to keep them there. Research groups have tracked a dropping percentage of young adults still participating in church activities or attending church at all since their teenage years. A Barna survey showed 61 percent of people in the 20-29 age group had participated in church activities as teens but are now disengaged. Youth Transition Network coordinator Jeff Schadt preaches an even higher proportion of youths - as high as 88 percent - falling away from the church, especially when leaving the nest for college. The sugarcoated Christianity that was popular in the past few decades was found to be causing growing numbers of kids to turn away from youth-fellowship activities and the Christian faith altogether, according to Time. "The vast majority of teens who call themselves Christians haven't been well educated in religious doctrine and therefore don't really know what they believe," Christian Smith, a University of Notre Dame sociologist and author of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, told the magazine. "With all the competing demands on their time, religion becomes a low priority, and so they practice their faith in shallow ways." Teen Mania, one of the nation's largest youth organizations, openly rejects the MTV culture. More than 200,000 teens just this year attended the organization's new Battle Cry stadium-worship events that feature top Christian music artists while grounding teens in Scripture. Stadium events run like a Christian Lollapalooza, as Time described it, but founder Ron Luce knows the significance of a strong foundation in Scriptural teachings. He aims to raise up "serious followers of Christ" and his approach has been a huge success with teens and youth leaders. Today's teens are more drawn to Scripture and desire to get a better understanding of what they believe. One surprising finding that Fuller Seminary's Center for Youth and Family Ministry revealed in an ongoing study was that teens attend youth group because they like their youth pastor and to learn about God. Those reasons were listed by the majority of the surveyed students. The Barna Group found the top reason listed among teens for attending church was to "understand better what I believe." Students also said they wanted to have more time for deep conversation and also desired more accountability in their youth groups. Games or other activities were not a desired priority. Time reported churches now focusing more on Scripture and less on entertainment are actually growing. Youth attendance numbers are at least doubling at such churches as Shoreline Christian Center in Austin, Texas and Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md. And teens are happy with the traditional approach as they're understanding what it means to be a Christian.
Study: State of High School Seniors Today THE CHRISTIAN POST - By Lillian Kwon - October 24, 2006 -- Fuller Seminary's Center for Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM) released results from its first wave in a three-year longitudinal study surveying high school seniors going off to college. Studying the current state of seniors and the type of students youth ministries are developing today, the College Transition Project received responses from high school students around the country for wave one of the milestone study. Surprisingly, the top reason students go to youth group is because of their youth pastor. According to the responses received, 162 of which were usable, 68 percent said it is "very true" or "completely true" they go to youth group because they like their youth pastor. The second most popular reason was "I learn about God there," which was followed by 58 percent who said "It's fun." Other reasons listed as "very true" or "completely true" by at least 50 percent of the students included "I feel comfortable there," "I've always gone to church/youth group," "It's a place where I can learn to serve," and "It feels like a real community." Some youth workers expressed ambivalence about the top reason students listed but they also raised the question if it's possible that the students have become "too dependent" on their youth pastors. "Interestingly, seniors' connections with their friends at youth group don't rank as highly as many would have guessed," noted the report. "By average score, seniors ranked the options regarding community and a sense of belonging seventh, eighth, and tenth." The least likely reason students listed was that their parents make them go or that they feel guilty if they don't go. Students were also asked what they wanted to see more of in youth ministry. At the top was the desire for more service projects. Following that, 70 percent of the respondents wanted more or much more time for deep conversation; 65 wanted more mission trips; 65 percent wanted more accountability; and 58 percent wanted more time to worship. Ranked last was the desire for more games. "The major theme of these seniors’ responses is a desire for deeper responsibility and interaction; they want to express themselves and their faith through service and mission trips, and they want deeper interaction through conversation, accountability, and alone time with leaders," stated the study. "The vast majority do not want more games." Although 56 percent said they wanted more Bible study, the study highlighted its lower ranking among the listed changes and pointed to the little time seniors spend on reading the Bible on their own. A separated questionnaire had indicated that the seniors read the Bible by themselves an average of 2 to 3 times per month. On an additional note, involvement in Sunday youth group gatherings was found to have a significant relationship with seniors' choices on such risk behaviors as drinking alcohol and sexual activity. Earlier results from the project's first pilot phase had found that 100 percent of students who graduated from youth ministry had engaged in risk behaviors. However, the more activities, such as Bible reading or youth ministry works, students engaged in, the greater effect it had on their faith and life choices. A third question in the study asked seniors about their feelings toward their adult youth leaders. Youth leaders were looked to as a greater source of support than fellow peers or "other students" in their youth group. "Overall, this is encouraging news for youth leaders," the report highlighted. "Seniors feel supported, valued, and appreciated by youth ministry adults. Perhaps surprisingly, seniors’ perceived levels of support from other students in their youth groups pales in comparison to the support they receive from their adult leaders." Their perception of being supported by their youth group leaders also made a difference in their choosing to or not to drink alcohol. It had no effect on their levels of sexual activity. Having discussions with parents was also found to make a significant difference on students and the choices they make. When it came to integrating their faith into their life choices, 85.1 percent agreed that it is important that God be pleased with their dating relationship; 81.5 percent agreed that they try to see setbacks and crises as part of God's larger plan; 75.9 percent said it is important that their future career somehow embody a calling from God; and 72.2 percent said it was important to them to seek God's will in choosing what college to attend. "The good news is that students’ faith makes a difference in their perspective on dating, crises, college selection, and future career," the study noted. "The bad news is that students’ faith has far less impact on their choices related to money and schedule." One college sophomore described, “In high school, everything was scheduled. In college, every choice is up to you, and you set your own schedule. You can do whatever you want.” Wave one of the College Transition Project collected data from 162 high school seniors through online and paper surveys. The majority of the respondents were female, had a GPA of 3.0 or above, live with both parents, and said they were involved in student leadership or leadership training at their churches.
A New Generation of Adults Bends Moral and Sexual Rules to Their Liking THE BARNA RESEARCH GROUP - THE BARNA UPDATE - October 31, 2006 - Ventura, CA – Do Americans share much common ground when it comes to defining appropriate moral behavior and attitudes? Most Americans say they are concerned about the moral condition of the country and the vast majority of adults describe themselves as moral people. But the nation’s residents have difficulty agreeing on what a “moral” life should look like – much less how to make ethical decisions or how to define moral standards. A new nationwide survey from The Barna Group examines one of the largest gaps in the moral persuasions of Americans: the difference between those in their twenties and thirties (an age group comprised primarily of the so-called “Buster” generation) and those over the age of 40. The new study shows a significant divide between the nation’s young adults and its older residents. The project analyzed 16 different areas of moral and sexual behavior and found that Busters’ lifestyles took a less traditional – some would say less moral – path on 12 of those 16 areas. The study also explored 16 different perspectives regarding morality and sexuality, finding that Busters’ views are less conventional than that of their predecessors in 13 areas. In none of the 32 facets of lifestyle or attitude were Busters more likely to possess a conventional moral position when compared with the older crowd of “pre-Busters.” Sexuality Perhaps no moral dimension has changed as much as Americans’ perspectives and behaviors related to sexuality. Among the 32 factors examined in the research, eight of them related to such topics as extramarital sex, pornography, homosexuality, and sexual fantasies. In all eight of these areas, Busters were significantly different from older Americans. Some of these differences show up in the sexual activities engaged in during the past month. Busters were twice as likely to have viewed sexually explicit movies or videos; two and a half times more likely to report having had a sexual encounter outside of marriage; and three times more likely to have viewed sexually graphic content online. But many Busters also defy sexual convention in their attitudes. For instance, more than two-thirds of the generation said that cohabitation and sexual fantasies are morally acceptable behaviors, compared with half of older adults. Most young adults contended that engaging in sex outside of marriage and viewing pornography are not morally problematic, while only one-third of pre-Busters agreed. Almost half of Busters believed that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are acceptable, compared with one-quarter of older adults. Other Behaviors Moral experimentation is often most evident at a young age. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Busters were more likely than older adults to say that in the past month they had used illegal drugs and had gotten drunk. (Smoking rates, however, were comparable between the generations.) But on a deeper level, the new rules of morality affect how young adults interact with others, creating less civility, respect, or patience. Busters were twice as likely as their parents’ generation to use profanity in public, to say mean things about others behind their back, to tell something to another person that was not true, to do something to get back at someone who hurt or offended them, to take something that didn’t belong to them, and to physically fight or abuse someone. Given their familiarity with and access to technology, the study also showed that young adults – especially twentysomethings – were ten times more likely than older adults to download or trade music online illegally. While some of that gap can be attributed to the relative comfort of the younger adults with the technologies involved, a considerable degree of the gap must be credited to the different moral standards of the two adult segments. The lifestyles of young and old were indistinguishable in a few ways. Out of the 16 areas of moral behavior, adults across the generations were equally likely to have given someone “the finger” while driving, to smoke, to buy a lottery ticket, and to place a bet or gamble. Views about Morality People’s actions are guided by their values and the research showed that Busters’ opinions about morality were also distinct from those of their predecessors. Young adults were significantly more likely to accept gambling, profanity, intoxication, and illegal drug use as morally acceptable behaviors. Busters’ perspectives were no different from that of their elders on three issues: the acceptability of abortion, allowing the “f-word” on broadcast television, and deeming divorce not to be a sin. However, other large generational gaps emerged when the survey explored how people decide what is right and wrong. Nearly half of all pre-Busters said they view moral truth as absolute, but only three out of 10 Busters embraced the concept of absolute truth. Two-thirds of those over 40 said humans should determine what is right and wrong morally by examining God’s principles; less than half of Busters felt this way. Instead, nearly half of Busters said that ethics and morals are based on “what is right for the person,” compared with just one-quarter of pre-Busters. This mindset helps to explain why Busters are more likely to embrace a pragmatic, individualized form of moral decision-making. When asked to describe how they make moral and ethical choices, a majority of pre-Busters said they follow a set of principles or guidelines, while less than half of Busters (including just one-third of those in their twenties) said they follow such external ideals. A Christian Distinctive? To what extent does faith make a difference among Busters? The research shows that born again Busters – a group defined not based upon self-identification with the “born again” label but based upon their beliefs about Jesus Christ and regarding life after death – were different from non-born again young adults on some issues. Born again Busters were somewhat less likely to illegally download music, to smoke, to view pornography, to purchase a lottery ticket, or to use profanity. However, young believers were actually more likely than non-believers to try to get back at someone and to have stolen something. Moreover, on eight of the 16 behaviors, the profile of born again Busters was virtually identical to that of non-born again Busters. The research also compared born again Christians across age groups. Born again Busters were much less likely to act in a “moral” manner than were born again adults over 40. On nine of the 16 activities, young believers were less conventional than older believers, while engagement in the other seven activities was indistinguishable between the generations.... The director of the research, David Kinnaman, pointed out, “The research shows that people’s moral profile is more likely to resemble that of their peer group than it is to take shape around the tenets of a person’s faith. This research paints a compelling picture that moral values are shifting very quickly and significantly within the Christian community as well as outside of it.” ...
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