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Hi, I’m Bob… and I’m a wonk. No apologies from me; no plans to change gears. I’m a wonk… and so should you be!
I guess some definition is in order. In the modern lexicon, a wonk is a person who takes an enthusiastic or excessive interest in the specialized details of a particular subject or field. Any area of interest can welcome wonkish fascination. Sports, politics, technology – they are all welcome for specialty geeks. For me, the only aspect of my life that calls for devotion to detail that would qualify is my personal faith.
I met George Barna in 1986, when we were both young drivers and focused on our mutual commitment to the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. We’ve maintained occasional contact over the ensuing decades; we both landed in leadership niches that were designed (by each of us) to allow our individual callings to flourish.
Today, George is the director and co-founder of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. In that setting, he continues what he’s refined over the last third of a century: with the clarity and certainty of the unchanging – and, unedited – Word of God, he positions people alongside God’s unchanging Truth and measures their conformance with timeless biblical absolutes.
Allow me to give you a wonk assignment worth pursuing: click here to access some of Barna’s most recent exposés that come straight out of his survey efforts with modern American church leaders.
First, an observation that we need no survey to confirm: the American culture is advancing at breakneck speed to abandon any vestige of our Christian heritage. Belief and behavior in 21st Century America are no longer defined by timeless biblical teaching: instead of a biblical worldview, the alternate is a hybrid called Syncretism: an amalgamation of different schools of thought that align with no belief system but ultimately competes with all of them.
Is that really a problem? Rather than being a fringe position held by liberals on late-night talk shows, it has become a rampant issue among today’s American church pastoral leaders. Breaking the church into sub-categories – Non-denominational, Evangelical, Charismatic/Pentecostal, Mainline Denominational, Holiness, Traditionally Black Protestant, Roman Catholic – the personal beliefs held by the pastors serving those local churches are shocking. Only the Non-Denominational (57%) and Evangelical (51%) hold fast to unchanging biblical positions. The rest range from 37% down to 6%, with the composite – from all seven sub-groups – being 37%. Hear that: about one third of the pastors serving America’s churches are in alignment with the Chief Shepherd’s absolute positions.
Most likely to be biblically aligned? Senior Pastors at 41%. Associate Pastors at 28%. Teaching Pastors at 13%. Children’s/Youth Pastors at 12%. Executive Pastors at 4%. Those are not unfounded attacks by anti-church forces: they represent the self responses by those ministry professionals – tasked with discipling Christians to become disciples/followers of Jesus. Their self-descriptions regarding 54 world-view revealing questions are the vital signs used to define them.
Whom can we trust? Barna finds and defines a unique segment within the church community whose biblical world view is at 46% – nine points higher than the pastors of their churches. George calls them SAGEcons: an acrostic used to describe individuals who are conservative in their Christian faith, active in pursuit of a closer relationship with Christ, and passionate about the state of our social, political, and moral values.
Teaching Pastors and Children’s/Youth Pastors: one out of eight espouse confidence in God’s truth. The rest have become most likely advocates of Syncretism – a blend of culture and Christianity that is repulsive to God: “…because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth,” (Revelation 3:16). “By their fruit you will recognize them,” (Matthew 7:16).
SAGEcons are unapologetic wonks. They recognize Barna’s wisdom behind the measuring of what matters: “You cannot fix something unless you know it’s broken.” Are you an active advocate for ancient truth, or passively watching the erosion of orthodoxy that stands in the face of modernism and preaches the truth, no matter what?
I’m a SAGEcon; I’m a wonk about what matters most. I won’t be silenced. We’re not here to abandon the church: the church is God’s plan for people of faith to gather and grow. We are here to assist in assuring that plan – from His Word – is protected and advanced. Care to join me?