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Casual Christian vs Captive Christian

Posted Dec 03 2009 9:15pm


I am pretty intentional about my television viewing. I watch a couple of reality shows when they are in season and a few news commentary programs. I rarely just sit and channel surf, but recently I was "surfing" and found myself watching an interview of George Barna, founder of the Barna Group.

The topic of discussion was our country's current cultural decline. During the interview they spotlighted Barna's newest book, America's Seven Faith Tribes. Through his research, Barna identified seven faith tribes in America including Jew, Mormons, Pantheists, Muslims and Skeptics. However, the two that were of particular interest to me were:

  • Casual Christian - 66% of the adult population
  • Captive Christian - 16% of the adult population

The book describes each of the groups and, although I've not read it, I am intrigued and have added it to my reading list. However, the "Casual Christian" and "Captive Christian" categories got me to thinking, Shona style. Admittedly, I'm no expert like Barna, but I do ponder a lot and these two groups put my thoughts into motion.

My Perception - Divine Power

Piano A few days after the interview I saw a public service announcement (PSA) promoting encouragement. It opens in a great concert hall with a couple realizing their young son has slipped away from his chair and is nowhere to be seen. The magnificent curtain begins its ascension revealing the missing boy center stage, tapping out a two-fingered version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on a spectacular grand piano.

Watch in horror, the mother tries to convince the little performer's daddy to go corral their wayward son. But, before anyone can react, a man in a tuxedo approaches the pint-sized pianist and encourages him to keep playing. The man, obviously the one everyone has come watch, leans over and envelopes the boy with his outstretched arms reaching toward the keyboard. A wonderful explosion of sound engulfs the concert hall while the boy and the master, literally, make beautiful music together.

This simple PSA provided me a powerful angle from which to view the Casual Christian vs. the Captive Christian issue. Let me share.

  • Casual Christians - are not always aware of the power available to them because they don't allow the Master of the Universe to envelope them.
  • Captive Christians - tap into the power of the Master by using their faith and dreams to go places they never thought possible; it's the sweetest of tunes playing a divine duet with God.

I believe there are many things distinguishing Casual Christians from Captive Christians, and I also know that I don't know everything. It isn't our place to assign those categories to others; that is between an  individual believer and God. Sure, we may ponder people's hearts and motives based on their actions, but God is the only one who knows for certain who is casual toward Him and who is captive. Maybe the observations I've shared will help you determine where you stand (if you aren't sure).

A Teen's Perception - Knowledge

A couple of days after seeing the PSA, I had an interesting conversation with my 17-year old son. I'm not sure how we got on the subject but Eric, who is not very interested in God at this season in his life, had  definite thoughts about serious Christians and those who practice Christian "Lite". Here is his take:

  • Christian Lite (defined as Casual Christians by Barna) are the sheep in the flock who take everyone's word as truth without seeking things out for themselves.
  • Serious Christians (defined as Captive by Barna) are the lions who read and find things out on their own and make their own decisions.

Not a bad observation by a teenager that has yet to make a decision for God. I think Eric hit on an important issue.

I know that Christianity is a matter of the heart with fingers reaching deep into the realm of relationships; a relationship with Jesus and others. But, running neck and neck with that aspect of believing should be knowledge and understanding. After all, Proverbs 2:10 presents a connection between the heart and knowledge: "For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul" (NIV).

Final Thoughts

Music When it comes to seeking the things of God, a Casual Christian seems more likely to lag behind in their spiritual maturity. A Captive Christian strives to grow which often results in a blossom of beautiful music with the Master. This is tricky to identify (hence, the fact we are not to judge others) because God doesn't work on all our weaknesses at once. It takes time. It's just that some are more willing to learn than others.

Have you ever encountered a believer who knows everything about the Bible, but lacks compassion on his or her fellow man? Think about the Pharisees of Jesus' day.

How about someone with an extraordinary talent for helping others, but cannot understand the concept of grace? Their lack of knowledge may lead them into doing things for all the wrong reasons. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-23 about the people who would perform many acts in His name only to be told, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers." Is it possible that a lack of knowledge tainted their concept of "doing" for Jesus?

Only you can determine if you are Casual or Captive. Maybe the above observations can be a starting point if you aren't sure. Maybe serious self-evaluation will provide an answer. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I growing in all areas of my Christian walk, or am I elevating one aspect over all the others.
2. Do I understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
3. What am I accomplishing for God, and do I have the right motives?

Practical Christianity isn't afraid to ask difficult questions. These questions may or may not help you, but this is a subject worth exploring. When it comes to Casual Christian vs, Captive Christian, our mantra, our motives, and our actions should shout "I am a Captive Christian!"


(c)2009 Shona Neff

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