Beware When Jesus Is Reduced to a Bit Player and Good Pastors Are Maligned

Those who promote a “biblical worldview” — or a “Christian worldview” — tend to give Jesus less billing than a bit player.

He becomes little more significant than a slightly seen extra in a movie who is cited in the closing credits as the “bald man at the bar.”

These “worldview” concepts are diversionary tactics formulated to intentionally shift attention away from the primary calling of Jesus to “follow me.”

This sleight of hand by authoritarian religious and political leaders seeks to fool gullible believers into accepting a substitute agenda of their liking — one that is often inconsistent with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Several years ago, the Barna Group employed such a maneuver by releasing a report in which the research group defined a “practicing Christian” with absolutely no reference to Jesus. Only meager church support and a claim of considering one’s faith to be important were required.

Similarly, in Barna’s ill-conceived “biblical worldview,” Jesus made a mere cameo to have his sinlessness affirmed. While true, that oddly is not exactly the central point of the Gospels.

Many who long sang, “I have decided to follow Jesus,” suddenly decided that following Jesus is no big deal.

My 2017 editorial response to Barna — titled, “How about a Jesus Worldview?” — challenged this bogus and misleading idea that Christianity is about something other than faithfully following Jesus. Various articles, books, sermons, retreats and resources have followed.

Well, George Barna and his cohorts at Arizona Christian University are doing it again. They’re seeking once more to trick American Christians into embracing a manufactured and politicized “biblical worldview” as a substitute for following Jesus.

Their extensive reporting in a series of releases on the so-called “American Worldview Inventory 2022” lays out all kinds of misleading findings and trumped-up alarms. One Barna report addresses “shocking results concerning the worldview of Christian pastors.”

Yet, in more than 1,800 words of this fear-baiting “report” there is nary a word about Jesus. Nothing. Zilch.

Why? Because with Jesus out of way it is easy to advance a religiously masked, self-serving political ideology and call it “biblical” — or even “Christian.”

This is done despite the absence of — and often in contrast to — the life and teachings of Jesus, who is summarily sidelined in favor of a different allegiance.

Then, in a more than 2,000-word report claiming that non-denominational pastors are more biblical than denominational pastors, Jesus (a little applause, please) makes a rare and brief guest appearance. He is there, however, only to selectively hand out tickets to heaven before exiting the stage.

The desired result of such manufactured “worldviews” is the intentional redefinition and reduction of Christianity to omit Jesus’ primary calling. By creating that void, these authoritarian operatives can keep Jesus from getting in the way of their self-serving interests and contrasting political ideologies.

Barna’s strategy is reflective of larger efforts by politicized Christians to downplay or dismiss the very one for whom the faith is named.

These efforts are a rejection of gospel priorities — as well as a brutal attack on faithful pastors who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ over fearful, self-serving, discriminatory ideologies.

Working in cahoots with David Barton — a political operative and fake historian who has been clearly discredited — Barna has a history of using his “findings” (rooted in false premises) to turn parishioners against their pastors who don’t fall for this political nonsense baptized in religious swamp water.

Audaciously, Barna claims that even the most dedicated pastors who don’t buy into his made-up “biblical worldview” are very likely humanists or Marxists.

So, don’t be surprised when some church members come after your pastor over this kind of reputation tarnishing and irresponsible targeting.

With all the challenges facing congregational leaders today, this kind of attack must be rejected — at least as strongly as Barna and his cohorts keep rejecting Jesus’ priorities and purpose.

Their message to Jesus is: Just give us our tickets to heaven, and we’ll take it from here.

That’s why the most hateful public personalities in America — from white supremacists to media personalities to many preachers and politicians — claim to be Christian while appealing to those in our pews with fear, hatred and hostility.

In his reports, Barna praises what he calls “SAGE Cons” (Spiritually Active Government Engaged Conservative Christians) as the only segment of the faith that truly embraces his “biblical worldview.” But the real con here is Barna conning the church.

As a result, Americanized Christianity is being redefined by substitute ideologies-turned-idolatries that bury Jesus in favor of priorities that are inconsistent with the very commands he issued to his followers.

It’s time to resurrect Jesus, again, and to follow him as faithfully as possible. Anything else — even when dressed up as “Christian” or “biblical” — is a grossly insufficient substitute.

But don’t be surprised at how mad some people get when it’s pointed out that Jesus is sidelined from their version of Christianity. They are hoping no one notices.