Ten Forces Shaping Christian Education -- By: Kenneth O. Gangel

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:583 (Jul 1989)
Article: Ten Forces Shaping Christian Education
Author: Kenneth O. Gangel


Ten Forces Shaping Christian Education

Kenneth O. Gangel

Chairman and Professor, Department of Christian Education
Dallas Theological Seminary

In its first edition for 1987 Insight magazine adopted the cover title, “The Issues of 1987.” As the number-one issue the editors selected “detente” followed by the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution, new trade legislation, the lifting of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit on U.S. federally controlled highways, apartheid, the new left in Europe, and computerized trading on Wall Street.1 As similar publications do annually, Insight thought it a good idea for its readers to ponder what might happen in the year ahead in order to understand the year better and to control their lives better in relation to events around them.

Such an effort is also incumbent on the church, though it is an enormous task for any given congregation, since churches lack the resources that can be garnered by a national magazine, and furthermore must look at least 10 years ahead not just one. To put it another way, educators cannot impact the future through Christian education until they first understand the future. Such a task is undertaken neither by guesswork nor prescient prediction but rather by careful analysis and projection of trends.

In 1985 the Emerging Trends magazine grouped sample findings from the previous seven years, reminding readers of such statistics as these:

8 in 10 Americans say they are Christians but only 4 in 10 know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

62% of Americans have no doubt that Jesus Christ will return to earth someday.

23% of U.S. adults believe in astrology.

Two-thirds of Americans think their chances of going to heaven are good.

Jesus Christ is fifth on a list by teenagers of the greatest persons in history.

2 in 10 among regular teenage church-goers do not know the significance of Easter for Christians (that figure rises to 3 in 10 among the greater population including non-church goers).2

What follows here represents one analyst’s interpretation of trends during this decade and an attempt to expostulate their significance through the end of the century. The selection of items was determined by their relationship to the field of Christian education and more particularly church education.

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