Emerging pastors who cater their ministries to young people and those traditionally not found in the pews have opened the pulpit to questions boggling young believers today.
At Mars Hill Church in Seattle, congregants are itching to address the controversial regulative principle.
"Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?"
Mars Hill founding pastor Mark Driscoll opened the "Ask Anything" floor in October, encouraging congregants to submit any questions they wanted addressed in next year as part of a sermon series.
Over 893 questions were asked on the church's website and over 300,000 votes were cast to narrow the list down to the top nine questions. Each member was allowed up to 10 votes per day.
Over 25,000 votes went to the regulative principle, making it the number one question, according to a final tally. The controversial principle is a teaching shared by Calvinists that says whatever is not specifically set out by God in Sripture should not be included in worship services. Proponents of the principle have appealed to it to bar the use of contemporary praise songs in public worship and to eliminate musical intruments.
Praise at Mars Hill is led by an indie rock worship band which projects music from speakers to a crowd of mostly 20-somethings.
The second most popular question asked by Mars Hill attendants was: "What can traditional/established churches learn from 'emerging' churches?"
The megachurch has grown to about 6,000 people on six different campuses, appealing to young people as a technologically savvy and culturally relevant church. But beyond the cultural attraction, many have been drawn by the church's conservative theology.
"We take the Bible as literally true," Driscoll has said to The Associated Press. "If the Bible doesn't forbid something, we believe there's a lot of freedom in cultural issues."
On issues that the Bible does speak against, such as sex before marriage and homosexuality, the church leaves no room for wavering on the biblical stance.
Driscoll's "Ask Anything" sermon series, slated to begin in January 2008, comes after popular emerging church Vintage Faith in Santa Cruz, Calif., concluded its series on questions churchgoers were wrestling with. A church survey found many Vintage Faith attendants were struggling with problematic Bible passages or "ones which seem really crazy reading them," said lead pastor Dan Kimball. The "Hot Theology" sermon series at Vintage Faith wrapped up last month with a long message on hell - what is hell and would a loving God send people to hell?
The preaching to questions posed by young believers comes at a time when Christians are increasingly addressing the failure of churches and seminaries to equip believers with the truth and how they can defend their faith. In a culture where truth is relative, more Americans are abandoning a traditional view of God and the Bible, according to The Barna Group, with only nine percent of the "born again" population holding a biblical worldview.
Focus on the Family launched The Truth Project last year to introduce believers to the Truth claims of Christ and tackle the pervasive problem ill-equipped Christians. Also, more Christian authors and leaders have published books answering some of the most common questions both believers and nonbelievers have about God and Christianity.
Driscoll of Mars Hill Church is slated to release Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions in February 2008, taking readers on a theological journey chasing Jesus through Scripture and pop culture. Some questions addressed include "Is Jesus the only God?" and "What will Jesus do upon His return?"
Mars Hill continues to thrive in a region considered the most "unchurched" in the country. Outreach magazine ranked Mars Hill second in its 2007 list of the top 25 multiplying churches in America.
The other top seven questions to be addressed from the Mars Hill pulpit:
No. 3: How does a Christian date righteously; and what are the physical, emotional, and mentally connecting boundaries a Christian must set while developing an intimate relationship prior to marriage?
No. 4: If salvation is by faith alone (Romans 3:28), then why are there so many verses that say or imply the opposite, namely that salvation is by works (James 2:24, Matthew 6:15 & 7:21, Galatians 5:19-21)
No. 5: How should Christian men and women go about breaking free from the bondage of sexual sin?
No. 6: Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What's hardest for you to believe?
No. 7: Why does an all loving, all knowing, and all sovereign God will into creation people He foreknows will suffer eternal condemnation? Why does Romans 9:20 feel like a cop-out answer?
No. 8: Why do you make jokes about mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trenchcoats wearers, single men, vegans, emo kids and then expect these groups to come to know God in the same sermon?
No. 9: There's no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn't seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black and white topic, or does it fall under liberties?