Ed Stetzer’s most recent research found a significant change in the kinds of spiritual questions people are asking.

Very few are asking questions about heaven:

  • Just 8% say they wonder about heaven every day (down from 20% just five years ago)
  • While 46% say they never do

More are asking about meaning and purpose:

  • 18% say they wonder about meaning and purpose every day
  • Only 28% say they never do

Ed’s Conclusions
1. Christianity has the answer to the questions people are asking. Through Jesus Christ, people can have both meaning on earth and eternal life in heaven

2. As People are now more concerned about how to get happiness in this life than in the afterlife, the church should start at this point in evangelism.
As Ed says, “Knowing people’s questions and the gospel answer is a key part of clear evangelistic communication.”

My Question
While I appreciate Ed’s research, and I think the church should heed it and learn from it, I do wonder if unbelievers are really the best judges of the questions they should be asking? (I certainly wasn’t) Is it not a bit like asking an Inuit (an “Eskimo” for the non-politically correct) if they have any questions about gardening in the Sahara?

I’m not saying we should ignore the questions of unbelievers. As Ed says, they can be a starting point. But having answered them, perhaps we should go on to say, “Now these are important questions you’ve asked, and I’ve tried to give you serious answers. But there are even more important question you should be asking, like, “How can I get my sins forgiven? How can I get right with God? How can I be changed from within? How can I be born-again?” If an unbeliever isn’t interested in these questions, he/she has not begun to understand the seriousness of their state.

When the rich young ruler came with questions about the lack in his life and about how to gain eternal life, Jesus did not answer him directly. Instead, He started asking him about the commandments. It’s almost as if he was saying, “Wrong questions! Here, let me supply the ones you should be concerned about.”

Again with Nicodemus, Jesus interrupted Nicodemus’s introduction with a question that Nicodemus had clearly never even thought of before.

Sometimes we have to destroy the unbelievers’ bridges to nowhere, and start boring tunnels into their deepest problems.

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

    Thank you for this, David. It reminds me of Francis Schaeffer’s line of thought–following the unbeliever’s presuppositions through to “take the roof off” their delusions. Start with where they are, but they will soon see they have much bigger concerns!

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      I like the Schaeffer quote, Amy.

  • David

    Great points. Also, Ed and others with his mission seem to often be saying that people have fundamentally changed. I often wonder how true that is–arent we to a large extent still struggling with the same issues mankind has always struggled with? And therefore while every culture is a bit different, we shouldnt have to radically change our message or how we deliver it,
    just tweak it slightly. I have not studied this generation like he has, so I speak from ignorance and am curious if others who are more knowledgeable and come to different conclusions than Ed can chime in on this.

    • Jeff Smith

      The premise that people have fundamentally changed is a dangerous premise that is one explanation for the widespread compromising of a supernatural Christianity that occured in the 2oth century (especially first . People are the same in all generations, though there are unique challenges that each generation faces people are till fundamentally the same. and their need is the same. It is a faithful proclamation of the law and the gospel that, when accompanied by the power of the Spirit, teaches men both what they need and what they answer to their true need is.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      I suppose Ed would argue that the message is not different, but the emphases should reflect societal differences. However, I think I’m more on the side of your own approach, David. Fundamentally similar message with some tweaks.

  • http://blogergism.blogspot.com/ Doc B

    As the belief in the supernatural declines, so do the questions about it. The gospel is still the answer, because it reminds us of the supernatural and speaks to the reality of eternity as well as giving the answers we need regarding that eternity.

    But unless Paul was wrong in Romans 1, the questions will never cease completely because the knowledge of God cannot be erased from the human soul.

  • Nate Hoefer

    David, what is the answer to, “How can I be born-again?”?

    • David

      I am not sure what you mean exactly, Nate. But for an answer there are many excellent sources such as Greg Gilbert’s what is the gospel.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      My answer would depend on why you are asking, Nate. If you are asking from a theological perspective I could direct you to a number of resources. If it is a more personal, pressing soul-concern, I would tell you that God alone gives the new birth, but he calls us to believe on Christ for our salvation. I’d be happy to have more personal correspondence with you on this if you use the email icon under “About David Murray.”

      • Foppe VanderZwaag

        “How can I be born-again?” Or in the words of Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” See how Jesus answers Nicodemus in verses 14-21.

  • David Murray (Isle of Lewis)

    Very interesting David. Spot on.

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