Christians In A Post-Truth Era

Are we living in a generation in which feelings and impressions are as significant as facts? Scholars are beginning to talk about this phenomenon in our culture — which they label the Post-Truth Era.

We see evidence of this phenomenon in the church world as well. A generation ago when people were looking for a church, they wanted to know the creed of the church—the facts, the foundation of the church’s belief system. Now, though, researchers tell us that over 95% of people in our generation choose their churches based on how they feel as they leave the service.

Over 70% of Christians think the purpose of the church is to meet their human needs, and over 50% of Bible School and Seminary students think their calling is to meet these human needs. This is a stark departure for the church. We’ve always believed that the role of the church is to glorify God, and that the calling of our Christian leaders is to help people find their greatest fulfillment by learning to glorify God. Glorifying God is the door through which Christians have always walked in order to have their own needs met and to meet the needs of others. To reverse this order fundamentally changes the centrality of Christ in our lives and our calling to serve him by serving others.

We are the Church, the eternal institution God established on the earth that provides stability and consistency in our changing world. We know how to be the Church in free- market, democratic countries, and in Islamic countries, Communist countries, Socialist countries, rich countries, and poor countries. We know how to be the Church regardless of the trends we see in the world. At least we have known how to be the Church in times past. However, our greatest threat might be upon us—a post-truth world where foundations don’t matter, and core truth is no more significant than an impression or a feeling.

Jesus warned us about this in Luke 6:39-49:

Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

 And why worry about the speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

He went on to say,

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn-bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

He concluded these thoughts with an exhortation for us to establish a firm foundation that will endure any societal trends:

So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood-waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.

I believe the god of the American church has become money and attendance (or size of audience), and that the role of leaders has become image management and damage control. I fear many church boards spend their time accumulating assets and/or protecting them, and that we in the Church have spiraled into a delusion thinking worldly approval and influence is our charge. This is an unstable foundation that God’s work cannot be built upon. If we continue on this path, the unintended consequences will be diminishing influence and loss of purpose, which will leave our churches empty, our leaders worldly, and our hearts cold.

Now is the time to return and be faithful to our foundations.

The writer of Hebrews said,

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

What?!?! These issues are not interesting to the modern attendee of the American Church. We need videos, lights, emotion, contemporary illustrations from news, sports, and other relevant happenings in our lives that inspire a fresh, prosperous atmosphere that makes us feel good. We need Starbucks in the lobby and bright colors to make our kids happy. We need relevant topics intermingled with some Scripture. After all, that’s the way to grow a church.

I don’t believe it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Starbucks, bright colors, and relevant topics IF they are used to establish people firmly in the facts and faith of the Gospel . . . but they must not replace it. The evidence indicates that most Christians have been duped into believing that inspiration equals core conviction. That’s not going to work.

Hebrews 5:12-13 says,

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.

The greatest test of the American church is looming on the horizon. The upcoming election and its results will continue promoting a dramatic cultural change away from our Judeo/Christian heritage. Christian political activism will not change that slide, but the church being the church will help. If we have a solid foundation in the Word and Spirit in our lives, we’ll do fine being salt and light. If we don’t, our emotions will motivate us to be worldly power-players like everyone else. We will continue to be consumed with the speck in the eyes of others, unaware of the plank in our own. It’s time to let truth prevail in us, even in this post-truth era.

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11 thoughts on “Christians In A Post-Truth Era

  1. Brebowers says:

    This is a wonderful and insightful read. I just wrote a blog about how we seem to seek validation and emotional fluff more than challenging wisdom. I’d love to read your thoughts on this topic as well!

  2. dr.steve says:

    I just put on my status report about a line in a popular song today that says, ‘Truth is what you believe in!’ and my immediate reaction was, “NO, no it’s not. It’s truth whether you believe in or not!” We are certainly living in a post-truth era.

  3. Joey Sais says:

    Pastor Ted what an amazing blog. I am always blessed with the way you are able to communicate so deeply and simply with the work word. Thank you.

  4. Jenn Banas says:

    Thank you for this. It reflects what we have been feeling as pastor’s of the church in Canada as well. We are praying for the election and for our brothers and sisters in the USA.

  5. Chris Scheer says:

    Excellent insight, Pastor Ted! I couldn’t agree more.

  6. jerry says:

    A great read Pastor Ted, you are the best

  7. Trena says:

    I believe that if churches would put more focus on. Helping the poor, the orphans and the elderly, respect for institutions might be restored. I don’t believe the scriptures are as relevant as they were in years gone by. I believe scriptures could be revived if fundamentalist didn’t insist on literal interpretations. Today’s generation is the future of the Christian church. Most won’t walk by faith and not by sight. This comes from someone who spent 22 years in church fellowship but hasn’t for about 3 years.

  8. Cindi Posthumus says:

    Excellent! Well said! The truth in a post-truth era.

  9. Well said, Ted. I couldn’t agree more.

  10. Hayward wilson says:

    Al Gore wrote a book on this topic, I think it was called the assault on reason. I bought it but never got around to reading it. Now I want to pick it up.

    I appreciate your wisdom. Thanks for writing this blog. The blog on mediocrity really touched my heart as well, especially since my family and I always have those mediocre days. LOL

  11. R Sond says:

    Truth in the innermost places – read your own profile and the extract from above (?).

    “I believe the god of the American church has become money and attendance (or size of audience), and that the role of leaders has become image management and damage control. I fear many church boards spend their time accumulating assets and/or protecting them, and that we in the Church have spiraled into a delusion thinking worldly approval and influence is our charge.”

    “Ted Haggard is the founding pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, CO, the second church he and his wife, Gayle, have started since their marriage in 1978. Their first church, New Life Church, enjoyed 22 consecutive years of double digit growth, primarily through conversions, and grew from 20 people meeting in the basement of their home to 14,000 people meeting on a $60 million campus. Ted served as president of the 30 million member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) from 2003-2006. During these years, he often represented evangelicalism in the media and with world leaders. He also built The World Prayer Center and worldprayerteam.org. which was the largest network of praying believers in the world coordinated at the World Prayer Center. He also founded the Association of Life-Giving Churches, which merged with the Association of Related Churches in 2006. In 2006, Ted resigned from all leadership positions for a period of healing and restoration.”

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