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Addressing the State of the Church

Air Date 08/14/2015

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With recent news headlines suggesting Christianity is on the decline, researcher and pastor Ed Stetzer offers his insights on the current state of the Christian church as well as what the future of the church may hold.

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Lisa Anderson: Well, not long ago you may have read these headlines: "Christianity Declines Sharply in U.S., Agnostics Growing;" Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian;" "America is Getting Less Christian and Less Religious Study Shows." But is that really true? Is Christianity fading away? We're gonna take a look at the state of the church today, in America specifically and worldwide, as well. Welcome to "Focus on the Family" with Focus president, Jim Daly. I'm Lisa Anderson, the director of young adults for Focus and the host of "The Boundless Show" and I'm in for John Fuller today, who is out of the office.

Jim Daly: Yes, he is and Lisa, thanks for comin' in.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Jim: So appreciate it.

Lisa: Great to be here.

Jim: John's out runnin' around somewhere, so it is good to have you in.

Lisa: Very great to be here.

Jim: And Boundless, just give us a quick infomercial on Boundless. What is that?

Lisa: Yeah, we are the young adult ministry here at Focus on the Family. We want to help young adults grow up, own their faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage and family.

Jim: So if you have late teens or 20-somethings, they really need to plug into Boundless.

Lisa: Yeah, teens through 30-somethings really, helping them navigate that transition into adulthood.

Jim: Well, that is awesome. Listen, our guest today is a good friend, Ed Stetzer and Ed's a genius. Can I just say it that way? This guy's got two doctorates. He's got two Masters Degrees. I don't know what he does in his spare time, but he's the executive director at LifeWay Research and he's gonna offer us some great insights on some of the polls and the research that is coming out right now that might be, if you're reading the newspapers or listening to the news, it might be a little disconcerting, feeling like Christianity is on the brink of extinction. But we're gonna paint the picture a little differently today and it is good to have him with us.

Lisa: Well, one of his books that relates to the work of the church in the culture is called CompellEd: Living the Mission of God and we'll actually be making that available at the close of the broadcast. Something that I'm looking forward to hearing about today, given my role here at Focus, is how Millennials and other young people really do view Christianity or religion in general and how we can actually reach them with evidences of true faith.

Jim: Ed, with that long introduction, let me say welcome.

Body:

Jim: Ed, with that long introduction, let me say welcome--

Ed Stetzer: Thank you so much. Great to be with you.

Jim: --for the first time!

Ed: Well, I feel honored and so pleased to be here. Thank you.

Jim: It's incredible to have you here. Let's talk about it. Where is Christianity at in America? Is it dying?

Ed: Well, you know, I spoke a couple days ago at a conference and I put a big slide up that said, "Christianity in America is dying," as I started my talk.

Jim: (Laughing) Oh, man.

Ed: I can see a lot of people noddin' their heads sayin', "It is; it is; it is." And then I click the next button that said, "Said no real researcher anywhere." I mean, nobody actually thinks that, except perhaps a lot of Christians who've read maybe some headlines that they've interpreted in a way that's perhaps unhelpful. So, it's important to note, there's not one real researcher anywhere that says, "Christianity is dying in America."

Jim: Some people are repeating the Pew Research—

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: --that came out a while back and it probably leaked into a lot of news releases. I remember watchin' the news that night and that was it, "Christianity on the decline—

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: --in America." There's agendas all over the place. We all know that and yet, when you peel it back as a researcher, what do you see in what Pew put out?"

Ed: Well, and I wrote several articles on it in The Washington Post, CNN and U.S. and kind of wanted to share and articulate a little bit about what the data actually said. When you get past the headlines, which are generally not inaccurate, but perhaps to us, can be misleading, the headlines were that there's a sharp decline in people who are Christians. Well, there's a sharp decline in people who self-identified as Christians over the last seven years.

But one of the things that didn't get picked up by a lot of people and I wrote about it in USA Today, was there's actually an increase in the number of Evangelicals over that same time period. As a matter of fact, Evangelicals, which is probably most of our audience, right, so Evangelicals actually increased as a percentage of their share of Christianity as a whole. Of all the different groups, they actually received more people in than dropped out.

So, I think that one of the important things is that, that people who are listening, who hear the news stories, they need to understand that news reporters don't necessarily have the nuance that we would, that not everybody who calls themself [sic] a Christian, actually is the way we would define it. And I gotta tell you, that's very weird to news reporters when I say, "Well, you know, a lot of people who say they're Christians, we don't think they are." And they're like, "You can do that?"

Well, I mean (Laughter) I don't go around sayin' that, but we think that bein' a Christian is that you've received by grace and through faith that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and in your place. And the percentage of people who believe that has actually gone up since 1972. Actually the number of people went up in the years of the PEW study.

Jim: Talk about the nomenclature. Talk about how they refer to the Christian, the broad Christian swath of faith. They talk mainline, Protestant, Evangelical.

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: The "nones" that we're hear and—

Ed: Sure.

Jim: --it's not the N-U-N; it's N-O-N-E-S.

Ed: Right, N-O-N-E-S, none of the above. So, in other words, most people who are secular don't want to be atheists. Atheists don't have a good reputation, right. So they just say I'm nothing; I'm "none of the above." So categories might be helpful.

One of the categories is that there's what I call "convictional Christians," people who call themselves Christians. Now about 70, 75 percent of Americans call themselves Christians. So, when we say to people that we're in a[n] oppressed group, people are like, "Well, you're 70 to 75 percent of the country." But 70 to 75 percent of the country doesn't order their lives around their Christian faith.

Jim: It's not integrated.

Ed: It's not integrated. Well, actually it's not "convictional."

Jim: Right.

Ed: So, about 25 percent of people in the U.S. call themselves Christians. Now that's not just Evangelicals, 'cause that would include Catholics, mainline Protestants and others, but they call themselves Christians and they order their lives around that. It's a conviction for them.

But the majority of people, this is important, the majority of people who call themselves Christians in America are not ordering their lives around their Christian faith like those who are convictional. So, in an article, I wrote, it was for CNN, I called them "Cultural Christians" and "Congregational Christians."

Cultural Christians are Christians 'cause they don't want to fill out a form and say they're Hindu or atheists or something else. They're just Christian, 'cause they're in America and Christian means good. And about 25 percent of the population is that. About 25 percent of the population has some loose connection to a local church. Maybe they were baptized as an infant or married as an adult.

Jim: Or they go at Christmas and Easter.

Ed: Oh, at Christmas and Easter, so they're "Chreasters," we call them at my church. This is important; so when you break about the population, about 25 percent of America, about a quarter of America says, "We're not Christians." About 50 percent says, "We're Christians," but they're nominal Christians. And then about 25 percent say they're Christians and they really seek to live it out. So, it's important to note, people who believe like us, we are not a religious majority. We're a convictional minority, but it can be confusing because the number of people [who] identify as Christians is declining rapidly, while the number of Evangelicals has actually increased.

Jim: And what do you think is the cause of that decline in kind of the mainline Protestant classification?

Ed: Yeah, so, mainline Protestantism is largely shifted [sic] in many ways with culture. Now that's not the only reason. Some of it's demographics. Some it's historic, but there was, I think a desire in many mainline traditions to maybe engage culture better by aligning better and beliefs were changed and that perhaps the hope was that all of these people that dropped out of church would suddenly come back. And then this great historic ironic twist, they actually became the fastest shrinking denominations on the scene today.

So, whereas the Assemblies of God, which has robust beliefs, they now hit 25 years of consecutive growth. They just celebrated just recently in a release I had the privilege of being a part of. So churches like that are growing. Non-denominational Evangelicals churches are growing and I'm not saying everything's well, Jim. Don't misunderstand. What I am saying is, the sky is not falling, but the ground is shifting.

Jim: Hm.

Ed: And the ground is shifting in that, it used to be that most of the country was sort of with that Judeo-Christian belief, even though they didn't necessarily practice as a convictional Christians. So, in other words, it's been decades and decades, about 25 or so percent of people have really been serious church attenders. Church attendance now is about where it was in the '40s.

Jim: In the 1940s.

Ed: Yeah, in the 1940s, right.

Jim: Huh.

Ed: So it went up in the '50s, then declined again. Evangelicals sort of peaked in the '80s and the '90s. So, and actually, since 1972, using the general social survey, attendance is about within two or three percent of where it was then. So, there's not been this huge drop off. There's been a huge shift. Mainline Protestants, huge decline, I mean, historic decline and no mainline Protestant leader would disagree with that. Evangelicals have replaced mainline Protestants as the largest Protestant expression in the U.S.

But so, again, I'm not saying things are good. Evangelicals peaked in the '80s and the '90s, but I think we've lost the home field advantage in many ways, 'cause that 75 … 20 years ago is was 85 percent of Americans called themselves Christians. They weren't all practicing, but we still had a home field advantage. That has shifted as the culture has become more secular. Even people who call themselves Christians, the nominal Christians think in more secular ways.

Lisa: So, Ed, what does this mean for millennials, who are, you know, we hear they're all about authenticity and living out their faith in a way that truly matters. Do we have to define these terms for them? Because if they're coming up against friends and coworkers and family members who claim Christ, but aren't evidencing that at all in a convictional way, how do they sift through the clutter and figure out what living out a true faith actually looks like?

Ed: Yeah, it's a great question and one of the trends we find, Lisa, is actually an increase in the devotion among millennials. In other words, it is important to note that millennials are decidedly less religious than the generation before, but among college students, about a third are secular. About a third are kinda spiritual, but not religious, most calling themselves Christians, but far more progressive in their social values.

But about a third are actually religious, believe in God, attend worship, have conservative social values, which would be news to a lot of people. So, what's happening in the next generation is, in one way, I'm not saying it's all good, but one of the unintended benefits of the decline of nominal Christianity is, is that what a Christian is, is going to be more evident to a culture that gets confused when everyone call themselves a Christian, but so few are following Christ.

Lisa: Yeah, that's true and I just see the waters muddied. I mean, Jim, you know, in talking to our constituents at Boundless, it's so evident that there is confusion, because we'll have a lot of folks in our audience who think that being a Christian, even though they won't be on the one side of like totally nominal or I was just baptized or whatever, they think that warming the back pew of a megachurch is being a Christian or re-Tweeting Francis Chan is being a Christian.

Ed: No, that does make you a Christian.

Lisa: And so—

Jim and Lisa: (Laughing)

Ed: I mean, it's Francis Chan, come on.

Lisa: --well, it is and watching at least four of his videos—

Ed: Exactly.

Lisa: --per day, I mean, I'm totally all about that, but it is, I mean and that's where I could see the confusion in it.

Jim: Well, absolutely. Ed, let me ask you this question. When you look at where the culture's moving, you know, when you again, watching the news, people see a greater lurch to the left.

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: You see some of the decisions that the Supreme Court, etc. How is this interplaying with the research that you see? Are we truly more Left in our orientation, or it just the centers of power that are projecting that, that people are relatively in the same place?

Ed: It's a good question. I would say it depends on the issue. For example, we're passionate about the pro-life issue and actually, polls are tending more in the direction of pro-life concern, but on most cultural issues, no. Most cultural issues, the population as a whole is trending away from what would be Evangelical belief and so, so again, I do think we're not a religious majority. We're a convictional minority.

I think part of it is recognizing that and part of it is saying, you know, we do believe some things that are out of the mainstream. Part of it's embracing who we are, that what we believe is perhaps strange, but the communities that we build and we shape, that people look at them and they in and of themselves become an apologetic for the Gospel.

They look at that and say, "Oh, that's what Christians are. That's what the kingdom of God looks like. You know, races are reconciled. Marriages are made whole and they're drawn to that as the promises of the secular world, that the progressive world has failed to deliver. So, I do think there's genuine shift. I think the future of Christianity in the United States is already here, it's just in certain regions, and I think if we looked to the Pacific Northwest, where we have robust Evangelical Bible-teaching churches doing great work, in a predominantly secular society, I think that may be what more and more of the country goes to if current trends continue.

But here's the deal. History, we don't know. Things change. Who would've guessed some of the shifts that have taken place in the last 10 years, and who would guess when things shift back 10 years later? Who knows?

Jim: When you look at that landscape, so often we can be fearful that we're losing something and it's very difficult with that shifting landscape. But when you look at the nominal Christians as defined in the research, when you look at marriage and parenting particularly, those nominals are kinda the worst-behaving people in the data.

Ed: No question.

Jim: And what I mean by that, as a group, as an identified group, their divorce rates are higher. Child abuse is higher. There seems to be more difficulty in people that have the veneer of faith, but don't integrate their faith. Is that fair?

Ed: Yeah, so there's no question it's fair. I had actually written an article on it. What we found is, is that for example, nominal Evangelicals or conservative Protestants actually look at pornography higher than the general population. So, we can go on and on. So, it's--

Jim: More so than secular people.

Ed: --more so than the general population as a whole--

Jim: Yeah.

Ed: --not comparing necessarily the secular, but as everyone as a whole, so more than average.

Jim: So, what does that tell us?

Ed: I think part of what that tells us is, is that sometimes when you hear the statistic that divorce is higher in conservative Bible-belt communities, you need to remember, that doesn't mean people who are following Jesus are divorcing at a higher rate than people who are not.

Jim: But boy, how confusing that is, because most people—

Ed: Exactly.

Jim: --most journalists—

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: --like you said, don't even know that distinction.

Ed: Don't know the distinction, but you can see it. So, for example, if you actually look at the divorce rates among people who marry young, which is a more common characteristic in Evangelical and in Bible-belt states, who marry young, who are in the church versus those who are not, it's a huge difference. Those who are in the church divorce at a much lower rate than the general population or than as nominal Evangelicals.

And so, I think it's important. That's why you hear things, "Well, Evangelicals are shifting on certain issues." Well, a lot of nominal Evangelicals are shifting a lot more, where a lot of practicing Evangelicals are not."

So, when I look at the church, I look at the mission field as changing and the mission force needs some work, but I don't look at it and say, again the sky is falling. I look at it and say, "How can we help the church get on mission in the new reality we find ourselves?"

Lisa: Well, Ed Stetzer is our guest on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm Lisa Anderson, in for John Fuller today. If you can't stay with us, get the down or listen online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. We're talking about how the church is doing in modern culture, why there's growth in some in some pockets of Christianity, but why some are falling away from the church or have no religious affiliation at all.

Ed, I'm just interested in knowing and Jim, you know this from traveling all around the world, when you're a Christian in the Sudan, you're a Christian. When you're a Christian (Chuckling) in China, you're a Christian. I mean, I would just be curious to know about the worldwide church. I mean, it's more accessible now. We are seen. We're much more a global community of believers. I mean, I almost feel ashamed sometimes in looking at my own faith, the way I play it out and I feel, I would like to say I'm a convictional (Laughing) Christian, but anyway, I mean, let's talk a little bit about the trends there and what we in America can learn from them.

Ed: You know, people go, "Hey, is the Church growing?" And they—

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Ed: --use the capital C, meaning "universal Church."

Lisa: Right.

Ed: And unfortunately, a lot of Americans when they ask that question, they actually think that the big C, capital Church is the American church—

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Ed: --and it's not. It's a global Church and what's happened is, is that over the last few years, is the center of energy in global Christianity has shifted to the global South and we see in for example, we see that in China, where we've seen rapid growth of the church. We see that in Brazil. There'll be more, depending upon the trends and who's counting, but by 2050 at the latest, there'll be more Evangelicals in Brazil than there are in the United States.

We're right now doing a research project at LifeWay Research there and fascinated to see the growth of Evangelical believers in the Brazilian context and depending on who's counting and how you count, Brazil's now the No. 2 missionary sending country in the world.

So, when you look around the world, Christianity is thriving in many, many places, not in all places. Don't misunderstand. Europe, not, right. South America, thriving. Parts of Asia, yes. Parts of Asia where there's persecution, not as much. Sometimes in places where there is persecution, Christianity's thriving.

So, here's the thing. I mean, from a research perspective, I'm encouraged about the global trends of Christianity. But as a Christian, I've read the end of the book. Jesus wins.

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Ed: And so, even from that perspective, in faith, I'm encouraged about here and the rest of the world.

Jim: Ed, so many of us live in the moment right where we're at. But working on the international effort here at Focus on the Family gave me really, I think some good insights and we're in over 130 countries. I don't think people realize that.

Ed: No, it's everywhere.

Jim: And I remember being in China and an internal missionary couple, meaning Chinese nationals dropped me off at the airport in Beijing and they said, "Oh, we'll be praying for you in America." And it just caught my attention and I kinda wheeled around with my suitcase and I said, "Well, how do you pray for us in America?" And they said, "Oh," they looked like they had their hands caught in the cookie jar and I said, "No, how do you pray for us?" And they said, "Well, we pray for greater persecution, 'cause from where we sit, the church in America is very weak."

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: And I remember thinking about that all the way home on that long flight, thinking, "Lord, who's prayers—

Ed: Powerful.

Jim: --are you hearing?"

Ed: That's powerful.

Jim: And it is powerful—

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: --because so often we, as Christians, we believe, we equate comfort with living the righteous life—

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: --that somehow our comfort is our goal.

Ed: Yeah.

Jim: That's not usually the Lord's formula, is it?

Ed: No, no, somebody along the way maybe helped us to buy a lie that Christian success is living the American dream and I just don't see that biblically. And what we find historically with some exceptions, but when there's downward pressure on the Christian faith, which I'm not one who talks about persecution. I think persecution is what we've seen on the beach in Libya.

Jim: Right.

Ed: But there's certainly downward pressure and I believe that'll increase. What that does is, it actually makes a more focused church. And so, as our Chinese sisters and brothers are praying for us, where they've experienced rapid growth, and depending upon again, who's counting and how you're counting, to the place now where devout believers are in some places outnumbering Communist party members and if current trends continue, will.

And so, we're seeing China, a great move of God in China and so, why? Partly because downward pressure has produced believers that are more devout. We're actually beginning to see that here. We talked about, Lisa, about millennials—

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Ed: --next generation. What we're seeing is, those who are Evangelicals and others who are practicing Christians, they're practice is actually becoming more frequent and so, maybe that back-row person is becoming more likely, 'cause it's actually costing something, a bit more, not like our sisters and brothers in the Middle East, but it's costing a bit more and as it continues to cost a bit more, we'll see people, I think, walking more faithfully.

Lisa: That's interesting. Can you actually, Ed, give some advice maybe to parents who are looking at their kids and they feel kinda torn, 'cause they want them to have a solid faith that is internalized, that is true, but at the same time, they kinda want them to have the American dream, as well. And I'm thinking of my pastor who just said a few weeks ago, that he realized he was praying all the wrong things for his kids.

He said, "I've been praying for years for my kids to be safe, for them to healthy, for them to have fun and then for them to do well in school. And he said, "I need to start praying for like the sanctification of my kids."

Ed: Yeah.

Lisa: "I need to pray for hearts that are turned towards God, that are sold out to Him and that may not come easily."

Ed: No, there's no question. My oldest daughter lived in Brazil for a semester when she was 15 in a partnership we have with a church there through our LifeWay Research and our church. And she came back and said, "Dad, I'm prayin' about missions." And it's interesting. You know, I have a Ph.D. in Missiology. I encourage people to go to global mission endeavors, except my daughter. (Laughter) because—

Lisa: You're dad.

Ed: It is a little closer to home, isn't it? (Laughter)

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Ed: And so, and I had to work through that and I did work through that, 'cause I don't want the greatest hindrance to God's global mission to be godly parents and grandparents, because ultimately as parents and grandparents, we want to say to our kids, "Go." The safest place where they can be is in the center of God's will.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Ed: And furthermore, we need to say to every generation—ourselves and the next generation—you put your yes on the table; let God put it on the map. God's doing amazing things around the world. It's gonna get tougher here. It's tougher in a lot of other places right now. The safest place you can be is following Jesus.

Jim: Ed, I so appreciate what you're sayin', because for me, the thing that concerns me the most is that, as rights are challenged, as our comforts are challenged or changing, as the Judeo-Christian value system shifts in this country like you've defined it, we can get anxious and we can get worried and we can work ourselves into a place that God is not glorified, where we're not carrying His peace, which is what we should be doing.

Ed: That's right.

Jim: I mean, He did say the world's not gonna like you.

Ed: Exactly.

Jim: And but be of good cheer—

Ed: That's right.

Jim: --for I have overcome the world, having that long-term perspective of eternity, the fact that we don't have to prove anything. The Lord has done all that. We simply have to live it well. When you look at those that are the "nones," the nominal, the secularists in the research, what's an effective way in the coming separation of belief systems as we've described today through the research, how can Christians be salt and light to that world, to those people that may be rejecting Him? And is there evidence in the research as to why they're rejecting faith?

Ed: Yeah, well, a couple of things. First, I think that we have to recognize that, I mean, there's a lot of different sin our world, right? There are people who follow other global world religions that we need to share the Gospel to. There are people who are completely secular, atheists we can share the Gospel with.

But the two biggest categories that I think that as Christians we're going to see and need to engage are nominal Christians who still make up 45 to 50 percent of the population. So, I don't think we need to run away from ideas and frightening people to church who may still have some sort of vague or positive idea towards church. There's a lot of myths out there, right, that everyone hates the church.

You know what most people think about Christians and denominations and Evangelicals? Nothing. They're not sittin' around thinkin' about us. You know, they're like, "Man, I don't really like this group; I like this group." Very helpful book by an Ivy League professor was called Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites and Other Lies You've Been Led to Believe, if I'm right. And in that book, he kinda unpeeled this book of the year, Christianity Today. He kind of peeled back some of these myths that people are all mad at us and hating us.

There are some concerns, but the reality is, is you know your neighbors right now. The people that are listening to us right now have neighbors that they have good relationships with and they have an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with. A lot of them are nominal Christians.

The growing category is the secular people, right now, 15, 18, by any count, percent of the population, in the next generation, 30. And the nominals, the nominal Christians, they're actually becoming the "nones." Now they're not changing their behavior in many cases—in some they are—but mostly what's happening is, people who call themselves Christians, who haven't darkened the doors of a church or "convictionally" looked at their faith in decades or years, are now saying, "You know what? I'm not really anything. It's an outbreak of honesty—

Jim: Right.

Ed: --in some ways.

Jim: So, that's why that group is growing.

Ed: And here's the challenge. We don't thrive in engaging secular people. We're better at saying to people who have a vague belief in God and a vague belief in Jesus, "Here's what that means." We need to develop ways to share the Gospel, stronger use of apologetics, showing and sharing the love of Jesus to secular people, as well.

Jim: Hey, Ed, as kind of a research Berean, I mean, that's how I see you and you're so good at it. I mean, you know Scripture so well and you're applying that to your vocation as a researcher, but let me talk to you as a dad.

Ed: Yeah, sure.

Jim: So, with your kids—

Ed: Yeah, three daughters.

Jim: --how do you prepare them? What are doing in your own home to say, "Girls, here's how you need to be ready and this is what I'm seeing as your dad?"

Ed: Yeah, well, part of the reality is, I recognize that the primary responsibility of discipleship in the home is the parents. And what I actually know statistically is there's a new study out from the University of Southern California, published in Oxford University Press. It's called Families and Faith.

And in that study--this is a secular study--they talked about the impact of a father and the necessary loving, not a distance, it's actually something they talked about, not a distant authoritarian father, but a loving father.

So, we're recording this show and I gotta rush afterwards because I am flying back to go drive with my daughter to her horse show and spend time talking about this. And one of my daughters rides horses. We've actually talked about some of the Scriptures, what the Scriptures actually say about caring for animals and they actually do. They actually do reference those things.

And we've gotten involved in some of those things from a biblical worldview, so I recognize it's my role. I recognize and you know, we're all born stupid. The job of parents is to get the stupid out and to get the wisdom in. And so, the wisdom for us is tied up in a person named Jesus. And so, I want to my kids to see what the Gospel is, to show and share the love of Jesus with me, so they might engage in God's mission together.

Jim: Ed, that is so well-said and what I've heard you today is the sky's not falling. Convictional believers, those that really integrate their faith into their lives, we're doin' okay. We're actually growing and replacing those that maybe their belief system has become watered down. And that's a good thing and what you're saying in the culture today, maybe God is separating those who have deeply held convictions and they're gonna live 'em out, from those who have just pretended or they haven't understood it.

And we still need to attempt to reach those people and to encourage those people to deepen their faith or to come to faith. But I'm actually like you, excited about the future. I know it looks tough, but you know what? The God that I serve and that I know, He shows up in the tough places. And that's what gives me hope for the future. Don't be downtrodden. Trust that the Lord knows what He's doing and He's going to bring out deeper conviction in this country over time. Thanks for being with us.

Ed: Thanks for havin' [me]. Appreciate it.

Closing:

Lisa: Well, so true. Ed Stetzer has been our guest on "Focus on the Family" with a lot of great insights about the church and the mission that's in front of us, to reach people with the Good News of life in Christ. Ed's written a book to help you in that mission. It's called Compelled and it will help you to integrate God's love into all aspects of sharing your faith. Ask for it when you call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. That's 1-800-232-6459 or you can visit us online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And we'll send that book to you for a gift of any amount when you support the work of Focus on the Family. Remember, with your gift, you're helping us to share the message of hope in Christ with others around the world. In the past year 190,000 people have come to Christ or rededicated their lives to Him through this ministry. So, thank you for being a part of that by supporting us.

Our program today was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you and on behalf of Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I'm Lisa Anderson, inviting you back next time. John Fuller will be back and Dr. John Trent will help us understand different personality traits, as we help you and your family thrive.

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Ed Stetzer

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, and serves as the college's Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadershp. He is the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, a prolific author and well-known conference speaker. Ed is also a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and co-host of the BreakPoint This Week radio program. Learn more about Ed at his website, edstetzer.com.