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Barna Group: Americans Are Conflicted About Who Jesus Was

In the last year, American culture has been filled with movies, tv shows and news stories about God and Jesus. Major movie studios released “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Other films like “God’s Not Dead”, “Son of God” and “Heaven is For Real” had people touting that the market for faith-based films is huge. The History Channel showcased “The Bible” with millions tuning in to watch.

This year, the trend continues with “A.D.: The Series”, Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus” and the new Hillsong film releasing in September. We also see increased stories of Christians facing persecution around the world and challenges to religious freedom here in the US.

Jesus seems to be everywhere, yet based on a new study from Barna Group, Americans are conflicted on key points surrounding who Jesus was and how someone gets to heaven. The study, released April 1st, surveyed Elders, Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials around the following topics:

1) Was Jesus a real person who actually lived?

2) Was Jesus God?

3) Was Jesus sinless?

4) Have you made a personal commitment to Jesus?

5) Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?

The findings are fascinating (you can read the whole breakdown here) and the church needs to take notice of where people are when it comes to the Son of God.

While most people believe that Jesus was a historical figure, they’re less sure that He was sinless and that He is the way to heaven. Also, 62% of adults surveyed say that they have made a commitment to Jesus that still impacts their life, 52% of adults believe that Jesus was God. In almost every category, Millennials skew lower in results, including the belief that Jesus was God.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, had this to say about the study, “There isn’t much argument about whether Jesus Christ actually was a historical person, but nearly everything else about his life generates enormous, and sometimes rancorous, debate.”

Just before Jesus ascended, He gave the disciples the command to, “make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” It is time to examine what we’re teaching as pastors and small group leaders in light of this commandment. This report reveals that some of the foundational tenants and doctrines of the Christian faith are seen as adaptable, especially when it comes to the younger generation.

As we think about what we’re teaching, let’s ask ourselves these questions: Is it pointing people to Jesus as the Son of God? Are we compelling people to search the Scriptures to understand the need for a deep faith that stands trials and tests? Are we equipping the younger generation; not only to lead, but also to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ?

A.W. Tozer wrote in “The Pursuit of God”, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” There’s a lot of truth to what he said, as our view of God is a filter through which we view the world, others and ourselves. As we approach the body of Christ, we need to make sure those we serve and teach understand the truth of Scripture and who Jesus was – and still is – to His church.

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including ChurchLeaders.com and SermonCentral.com.