Anyone who brings up statistics about faith seems to be asking for a fight, but studies across the board — and I love to read such studies — show that the correlation between making a decision and becoming a mature follower of Jesus is not high. Here are some approximate numbers: among teenagers (ages thirteen to seventeen) almost 60 percent of the general population makes a “commitment to Jesus” —that is, they make a “decision.” That number changes to just over 80 percent for Protestants and (amazingly) approaches 90 percent for nonmainline Protestants, a group that focuses more on evangelicals. As well, six out of ten Roman Catholic teens say they have made a “commitment to Jesus.” However we look at this pie, most Americans “decide” for Jesus.
But if then we measure discipleship among young adults (ages eighteen to thirty-five), we find dramatic (and frankly discouraging) shifts in numbers. Barna has some measures for “discipleship,” including what they call “revolutionary faith,” a “biblical worldview,” and “faith as a highest priority in life.” Take revolutionary faith, which sorts out things like meaning in life, self-identification as a Christian, Bible reading, and prayer as well as questions about how faith has been or is transforming one’s life. That almost 60 percent becomes about 6 percent, that 80 percent or so of Protestants becomes less than 20 percent, and that almost 90 percent of nonmainline Protestants becomes about 20 percent.5 At the most conservative of estimates, we lose at least 50 percent of those who make decisions. We cannot help but conclude that making a decision is not the vital element that leads to a life of discipleship.
Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Zondervan, 2011), p. 19
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Statistics may be deceitful and the spiritual life does not lend itself easily to be described by use of numbers. Yet, we should not discard figures in an a priori manner.
Evangelicals value highly their ‘decisions for Christ’ After all, ‘concersionism’ is one of the four characteristics of evangelicalism, according to Bebbington. However, the ‘decision’ (whatever we mean by it) is only the beginning and what follows (or at least should follow), which is Christian discipleship, is the thing that really counts. Or, it is quite clear from the figures above, evangelicals seem to have a major problem on this front, in spite of their initial ‘decision for Christ’.
Could this be because we have become rather ‘soterian’ and are not anymore Evangelical enough (Gospel people)? That is, I think, Scot’s main contention in this book.