Are we a Post-Christian Culture?

May 11, 2011 — 9 Comments

There are three things that will define ministry over the next decade:

  1. Unprecedented Access – to products, services, ideas, and worldviews

  2. Alienation – New levels of isolation from family, from community, from each other

  3. Authority – New questions about who to believe and why – what has claim on our lives?

I’m at Catalyst Dallas this week. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed today by the content at the Labs. I’m sure it will improve as the real conference starts tomorrow.

Here’s my notes from what I thought was the most insightful Speaker today: Dave Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group (author of unChristian).

His main question: Are we a Post-Christian Culture?

  • 83% self-identify themselves as Christians in America
  • 8% of Americans are evangelical (based on correct answers to 8 theological questions)
  • Most Americans have a broadly Christian perspective
  • 75% have made a personal commitment to Christ
  • 3 out of 4 Americans believe the resurrection is literally true
  • We are a very Christianized culture but not a Christ-following ones
  • Are we post-Christian – yes and no

Our role in ministry: to introduce them to the God they think they know

1. Unprecedented Access to products, services, ideas, and worldviews

  • His 6 year old son doesn’t even know how to spell but yet knows that Google has all the answers to any question (I wonder if. . . – we go right to the internet)
  • Does your church feel in tune with the times when it comes to access?
  • Have students twitter or text in questions and answer them in the service
  • You Lost Me – new book. Young people feel that science is very accessible but the church is not
  • University of Phoenix is largest University in the U.S. – around 500,000 students
  • Whether it’s legit or not, online is where people are going

2. Alienation – New levels of isolation from family, from community, from each other

  • % of people born with unwed mothers:

1960 – 5%
Today – 42%

  • % who have completed major life transitions by 30 (leaving home, finishing school, financially independent, getting married, and having a child)

77% of men
65% of women
46% of women
31% of men

  • It’s a different cultural reality today than it was 50 years ago
  • Who’s working with these people who are starting “adulthood” later?


3. Authority – New questions about who to believe and why – what has claim on our lives?

  • Confidence in Leaders 1966 vs 2007

Congress – 42% vs 10%
Major Companies – 55% vs 16%

  • How can we as a church thrive as an authority-centered institution in an anti-authority culture?


Three Takeaways:

1)    Authority – The response to that is one of revelation

  • Do we really have a sense of God speaking to us?
  • The Bible is more than a textbook, or an owner’s manual
  • It’s a living breathing document, a revelation from the Living God instructing us in how to be on Mission with Him

2)    Access – response is one of vocation

  • Young people are leaving the church because they don’t feel that the church is giving them a calling
  • They never connected how the Bible applies to their major, their vocation
  • Reconnecting the idea of our vocation to the bible
  • Our faith matters outside of Sunday AM

3)    Alienation – the response is our presence

  • Presence can be facilitated via technology (not always being physically present) – twitter, email, etc
  • We can respond to their questions quickly and be more accessible


What do you think about those three: Unprecedented Access, Authority, and Alienation?

What will it look like for us to minister to college students in light of these three?


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  • I agree with your assessment of the labs today, Tim. David’s was the most challenging and relevant. I feel like there is a lot to chew on in the way of implications here. His book, unChristian, is full of questions that it would behoove us to wrestle with. It would be great to figure out a way for us to do that….

    • timcasteel

      Fun seeing you today Cheryl!
      Thanks for taking the time to chime in. I was actually not a huge fan of unChristian. Mostly – I feel like it’s not really reflective of the current culture. I feel like it accurately reflects the atheist crowd but not young people as a whole. I think it’s also mostly reflective of the George W Bush years and is a bit dated now. But I thought his “3 things” today were dead on.

  • The last thought is the one we’ve wrestled with alot as a team lately. How can we continue to remain “present” with students by using technology? How does that change where and how we spend our time? Do we incorporate that into a part of our weekly work schedule? (probably already doing that more than we realize)
    I think for students to continue to trust us, we have to remain “present” with them.

    • timcasteel

      My 2 cents: I’ve wrestled with this one quite a bit too. I strongly believe that technology is critical in connecting to this generation. But I really hesitate to carve out time from “hot hours” 1-5 in the afternoon when you can actually get face to face with students.

      I’d say it depends on where your ministry is at. If you have an abundance of students to meet with, I don’t think its worth carving out time in the afternoon for sure. Definitely worth it in the AM or late at night. For me, a smart phone enable quick checking of social media (especially twitter) in between appts and I don’t have to consciously block out time.

      But if your in more of a launching phase, maybe it would be a good use of some hot hours?? Not sure still, because I think face to face always trumps online.

      I’d love to get more input on this question – maybe I’ll throw it up there as a main blog post in the next couple days! Great question Scott.

  • DE


    These are good points and questions to wrestle through. I wonder if the presenter was speaking a little too broadly. In Destino I’m not sure we’re wrestling through the same things (at least not to the same degree). Good stuff, just maybe reaching too broadly to define this for all of America.

    • timcasteel

      good questions DE – I know his data is very broad and representative of all America (I know Barna is pretty solid in their polling and sample audiences). I can’t say the same for his conclusions. I did wonder how he pulled just 3 points from all of his data. I’m sure he was simplifying for brevity’s sake.

      Which don’t apply – authority? I would think Alienation from family would be lesser but still a factor as it relates to living in a digital world.

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