Jesus-focussed

Changing values

Changing Values

Changing values

 

Anyone with eyes, ears, and two or more brain cells knows that societal values are changing. However, perhaps fewer realise just how fast the changes are taking place, and even fewer appreciate the implications and outworking of this phenomenon.

NORC, at the University of Chicago, recently conducted a poll that revealed some insight into the current values of those living in the United States of America. Here are some of the results:

Changing values table

The question asked was, ‘How important are each of the values to you personally?

Changing values chartNow, there are a few things to note here:

  • Firstly, note the little N=1,019 at the bottom left of the table indicates that just over 1,000 people were polled. The statisticians give the survey a margin of error of just 4.1% at the 95% confidence level. However, bear in mind that the responses of 1,000 people represent a population of about 335,000,000.
  • Secondly, all of the responses seem positive – 94% hold that hard work is an important personal value and even a majority (60%) claim that religion is important to them. However, all of these results simply mean that a number of people SAY that certain values are important to them, but behaviours and priorities are the true evidence of value. For instance, Religion was given a ‘very important’ rating of 39 yet 60% of the same responders attend a religious service less than twice a year and half of those never go at all! This is a far better indicator of the true importance of Religion to those polled.
  • Thirdly, the numbers give no indication of generational bias. We have all heard the comparisons between Baby-boomers (Those born between 1946 and 1964), Millennials (Those born between 1981 and 1996), and the succeeding  Z generation. There is a lot of research showing that these generations generally have significantly different values. I am a 75 years old baby-boomer, and in my opinion, belief in God should be the highest value and marriage should rate higher than money, in the ‘Very Important’ column. However, I know that the average Millennial would probably disagree with me on this.
  • Lastly, those polled were Americans and not Africans, Europeans, or Asians. There was a time when American values greatly influenced the values of the average South African, but that day has passed. However, I would be surprised if a poll taken among the middle and upper-income classes in the RSA would differ much from the USA poll.

Change

The differences over time in personal values show up most clearly in the comparisons between yearly surveys in the ‘Very Important’ responses.

For instance, 25 years ago having children was very important to 59% of responders, but in 2023 it is just 30% (no wonder that the USA population is declining). Community involvement dropped from 47% to 27% but the importance of money rose from 31% to 43%. Patriotism dropped from 70% to 38% and Religion dropped from 62% to 39%.

Now I am going to refrain from making value judgements about the average American or Millennials in general, but it must be obvious that values have changed in ways that a follower of Jesus should not approve. But, what are Jesus-based values?

The Values Jesus Taught and Lived

There are many religious people around, fewer church attendees, and even fewer Jesus-followers. To try to persuade the majority of people in today’s society that Jesus’ values should be their values is probably futile.

However, this article is by a Jesus-follower and written for Jesus-followers, and so my position is that what Jesus taught and lived is what we should teach and live. So here are some of his values: Justice, Mercy, Faith and Faithfulness, Love for God and each other, Truth, Service, and so on.

He taught compassion and dignity, but not the ‘Tolerance’ valued as of third highest importance in the poll. In today’s Western cultures, WOKE folk have redefined tolerance as ‘acceptance and affirmation in all circumstances’. Jesus was selfless and taught selflessness, yet 91% of those polled rated ‘self-fulfilment’ as important. The only kind of patriotism Jesus taught was to God and his kingdom yet 73% of poll respondents regard national patriotism as important.

That may be all well and good for us Jesus-followers, but rather unimpressive for those who do not regard the Lord Jesus as God incarnate. For them, the question that determines values is “Is it good for me?” with a few adding, “And is it good for society?” Well, history alone should give the answer to that! What has happened to people and nations who looked only to serve their own wants? What has happened to civilisations that lost their sense of gender distinctions, morals, ethical standards, and so on? What of nations today that are dominated by godlessness and self-serving manipulation of others? The historical record reveals the obvious truth that such people and nations pass ignobly into a dark eternity leaving behind little of enduring value.

I heard a highly-ranked politician in South Africa stating in public that democracy was just about majority votes and had nothing to do with ethics and accountability! 

Wasn’t it one of the founding fathers of the US Constitution who observed that democracy would only work if citizens were law-abiding and of goodwill and sound ethics? (I searched unsuccessfully to validate this statement, so here is a chance for you to straighten me out). True democracy is not just ‘rule by majority vote’, it is a value-driven way of living in community.

Society Changes but Do Values Change?

The commonly held belief is that while ‘principles’ remain over time, ‘values’ may not. After all, people sometimes change their values. This must be true if we define a value as a personal judgment of what is important in life. However, it comes down to the old debate about Absolutes versus Relatives. Postmoderns generally believe that truth is relative, changing, and individualistic. Bible-believing Christians, on the other hand, hold that truth is God-given and absolute. I go a step further in affirming that Truth is not just an idea, it is a person… The Lord Jesus Christ (I have written a whole book about this, which you can find HERE). Values, like truth itself, are absolute if viewed as originating from the same source as truth,

God himself. Jesus, God the Son, came to Earth to, among other vital things, reveal himself, his truth, his values, and his priorities. There is no indication in his teachings and example that the values he espoused were generation or circumstance dependent. His way is the way for all people at all times and in all circumstances.

The Best We Can Do

Bearing all of this in mind, the best thing we can do for our families, our societies, and ourselves is to teach and model the values that Jesus embodied and taught, and not the transient values of our time or society. As I have stated so often, it is all about Jesus… it all comes down to Jesus… life, truth, values, priorities, morals, ethics, and everything else. This constitutes the moral and ethical light of our world and the Lord Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:!2)

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Introduction to Captivated by Jesus

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I have been concerned for decades that the church in general has lost its focus on Jesus. I am not the only one who thinks this.

For instance, Prof Len Sweet has written and spoken extensively on this subject over many years and he wrote the foreword to my book Truth is the Word: Restoring a Lost Focus. The TITW site is also part of my response to what Len calls a ‘Jesus Deficit Disorder’ and I have posted many Jesus-centred articles and podcasts on this site over the years.

My son Lance has recently become passionate about the centrality of Jesus in the church. So, we have decided to produce a new series called ‘Captivated by Jesus’. My daughter Karen has long been the Administrator, Graphics Designer, and Editor for truthistheword.com and all my books. My wife Pat is also involved as Proof Reader and Critic-in-Chief, so this new series is very much a family endeavour.

Next week, we are releasing a podcast with this introduction of the series. However, we are giving readers, who do not usually access the audio versions, a transcript of what Lance and I discuss in the podcast – Here it is:

Interview for introduction to “Captivated by Jesus” series

Chris: “Hello all.  As you probably know, Truth is the Word is a Jesus-centred repository of resources.  It is all about Jesus and his centrality to church, biblical understanding, and Christian life. I have a strong desire to see the church Jesus-centred and this is something that I strived for over three decades in the church I pastored (The Village Church), and in the seminary which I founded (The South African Theological Seminary).

However, when I look at churches and seminaries around the world I cannot but observe that most are not Jesus-centred.  What I mean by this is that they do not seem to adopt Jesus’ life, words, work, and revelation of the Godhead as their focal point for determining doctrine and practice.

At the beginning of 2021, after many long months of COVID-19 partial separation, my son Lance and I started to have breakfast together every two weeks.  After a couple of breakfasts, he started to speak of his unhappiness with his church and the church in general.  He said that he had started to realise that the church didn’t seem to be focused on Jesus, and definitely not obsessed with Jesus.

So we have decided to see if we can make a joint contribution at this time to lifting up Jesus and to encourage churches and believers to be more Jesus-centred.  We have decided that we will have a 12-week series on Truth is the Word, called “Captivated by Jesus”. This is a product of Lance’s desire to contribute to reviving the church and is a vision and endeavour I wholeheartedly share and support.

For the 12 weeks, I will share my thoughts and feelings in three posts and podcasts on different “attributes” of Jesus and then relate a personal story on where I have seen Jesus show this “attribute” in my life.  Lance will interview Christian thought leaders from around the world on their thoughts on Jesus and his position in the church.

The reason for this particular post is to introduce the series and Lance to you so that it doesn’t come as a complete shock when you hear his voice and see his name and not mine.

So, Lance – could you introduce yourself and the reason for the Captivated by Jesus series we are doing together?

Lance: Thank you dad and hello to your listeners.  Before I begin, I want to say that I don’t have a theological background and nor have I held leadership positions at the churches I have attended.  However, I am a Spirit-filled believer with a very solid Christian foundation.

During my life, I have attended quite a few churches and most of them have disappointed me.  During the last ten years especially, I have found myself attending church more as an obligation and something that I needed to do for my family.  I have often wondered if this is the sort of church that Jesus envisaged when he said he would build his church.  The churches I have attended have often been so lifeless, so full of programs and duty and actually centred on so much else other than Jesus.  They seemed centred on a charismatic leader who has a grand vision and purpose, or focused on social justice, or rules and processes, or even just on keeping the church going as an institution.

This came to the fore for me again when my wife and I decided to leave the church we were attending.  We had been attending this church for over 8 years and we were very involved to the point where my wife was an elder.  One of the side effects of being in the “inner circle” of the church was being exposed to all the human stuff a church goes through – from church politics to coming up with big multi-year plans to grow the church.  The reason we eventually left the church was when the lead couple, unfortunately, decided to divorce which became very messy.

Chris: So it is clear that you have been unhappy with the church, but what do you think the problem is?

Lance:

People are the problem.  People want to control things and the church. 

It actually makes me quite mad when I hear and see the church being managed like a business.  Church leaders from the world still go through to the Global Leadership Summit to learn the business of the church.  If you do a search on church growth, you will mainly find just strategies to be put into place.  Church starts to feel like a business aimed at producing a result.  Stylised services with some singing, preaching that is aimed at getting a response, perhaps an altar call, perhaps prayer… and then people leave.  People often become resources to work in sound, Sunday School, and so on, and often there is pressure on people to get involved complete with guilt trips if they don’t.  Finance is also a big thing with these churches, needing money to operate but always with a small percentage of people who contribute financially.

Chris: Thanks Lance, that is very sad and disturbing.  So what can be done about it?

Lance: The answer could be so simple that I am almost embarrassed to say it.  The answer is Jesus.

It starts with a question, ‘what is the purpose of the church?’ A common answer is “The Church Exists to Preach the Gospel and Make Disciples of All Nations. God wants us to evangelise the world with the message of eternal life through Jesus Christ.”.  This, of course, is true but is this the fundamental purpose of the church?  Well, I think that the purpose of the church is to “Help people to know and love Jesus and to make him known to all”.

Looking again at the subject of church growth.  Yes, you could run evangelism programs, have seeker-sensitive churches, effective marketing, and other things.  But, what if church growth was much simpler than this?  What if the Holy Spirit brought about church growth by drawing people to the church?  Could be, but how would this happen?  So a deeper question is, what kind of church would the Holy Spirit draw people to?  Well, I think the answer is, a church that loves Jesus, is obsessed with Jesus and makes Him known and when people go to this church they experience Jesus.  A church that is Jesus-centred and captivated by Jesus.

I know I run the risk of falling into the trap of putting this into a formula or method. You know, If you become Jesus-centred then certain things will happen in the church.  I am really trying not to.

I often think of John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life”.  This talks about how Jesus’ death on the cross, but I think it also applies to Jesus being lifted up, now, by the church.

I think of the problem I raised earlier about having to beg people to get involved and of so few contributed financially.  Would this be the situation if the church loved Jesus and the majority of people loved Jesus?  Wouldn’t people want to be involved?  Wouldn’t people want to give generously?

Chris: I have to say I agree with you in principle, but I have been a pastor for decades and I can tell you that it isn’t as simple as that.   Despite the fact that I built the local church around the centrality of Jesus and my passionate commitment to the centrality of him, I found that over the years things changed. New people joined, new leaders came in, the church grew numerically demanding more administration and funding, and so on. At one point, I realised that we had gradually slipped from our single-minded focus on Jesus. So, we split the extended leadership team of the church into workshop groups to examine just how Jesus-centred we were in every area and department of church life. Then we brainstormed how we could ‘return to our first love’. It is true that the Holy Spirit is the one who draws people to a Jesus-centred church, but we also have a role to play in ensuring that we actually are as captivated by Jesus as we think.

Lance: I think this is what the Captivated by Jesus series is all about.  There are so many unanswered questions:

  • What does a Jesus-centred church look like?
  • Does a church have to be more than Jesus-centred and actually be passionate, or I dare say, obsessed with Jesus? 
  • Would the Holy Spirit bless a church like this? 
  • What would this blessing look like?

I am not saying that the Captivated by Jesus series will answer these questions, but it is an opportunity to look at these questions and, most importantly, to focus on and raise Jesus up: To consider his qualities and the wonder of who he is: To rekindle passion for him.

Chris: Thank you son.  So, folks, when you hear Lance interviewing people in future podcasts, you now know who is and his vision and role in the Captivated by Jesus series. We are looking forward very much to this series and we are confident that you will be blessed by it. Please tell your friends and contacts about it and encourage them to subscribe to the podcasts at  truthistheword.com

The next blog post will be the audio/podcast of this interview and the one after that will be a transcript of an interview with the South African church leader and author Alexander Venter; the podcast will follow the week after that (you may have noticed the pattern we are working in is written blogs every second week and TruthTalks every other).

We are looking forward to this series and I do hope you will follow it and also tell others about it.

Introduction to Captivated by Jesus Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.