What is a tare and why is that a big deal?

Welcome back to my blog. Thank you for taking time to read it.

We have started a series on the exciting research findings from Teleios! A list of potential benefits is found on our home page of our website (www.teleiosresearch.com). Today let us explore the incidence of “tares” in the church.

Christ promised in Matthew 13 that there would be tares in the church. A tare is a plant that resembles wheat but cannot be correctly identified until harvest); so, Jesus’ term means those who appear as a Christian, but really are not true believers. Christ indicated tares would be difficult to differentiate from true believers until the end times. Nonetheless, since the church includes unbelievers, we should try our best to discern their identity so we might help them come to faith (1 John 2-4).

We investigated the potential incidence and effect of tares in the church by surveying users of the Instagram account, Instapray, often visited by young adult Christians. In total, 1526 individuals participated and 73% described themselves as evangelicals. Just over half had at least some college education and the average age was 23.

We evaluated the potential incidence of tares by asking participants how they were saved in a multiple-choice question which included no responses indicating ‘saved by grace’. To answer the question correctly the participant had to choose ‘other’ and supply the correct answer.

The second question then asked respondents if they were ‘saved by grace through faith alone.’ After seeing this participants could not return to the prior question and change their answer.

Interestingly, in the first question only 25% knew the correct response was not available and supplied an answer under ‘other’. Of these, approximately 60% included some statement regarding being ‘saved by grace or faith without works’, approximately 16% of the total survey population.

In contrast, the second question, which provided the right answer as a choice, was selected by 95% of participants. These two questions created a spread of 16% – 95% (79% difference) between those who could express salvation by grace without a written prompt versus having to read the correct answer.

This is important to pastors and lay teachers because, it suggests at a minimum, a significant percent of people identifying as church attending evangelicals do not clearly and/or confidently understand their salvation; and might be a tare. Additional survey questions found that these potential tares often demonstrated several other attributes:

  • Reduced adherence to the Christian faith
  • Lower levels of wellbeing
  • Greater levels of guilt
  • Less favorable opinions of church leadership

Why is this information important? It may explain some of the difficulties in the modern church in accomplishing efficient and effective ministry. We found through our prior surveys that a significant minority of congregants come to church with alternative agendas than a biblically based purpose which include reasons of especially power and self-seeking attention.

If the church considers those with persistent alternative agendas, may not actually be Christian, it might help the leadership know how to help them. They need to hear the gospel! All the attention and approbation in the world will not solve their problem. 1 John chapters 2-4 are clear that those who do not agree with the basic doctrine of Christ, do not show love or obedience, other church membership should lovingly question their salvation.

Thank you for joining me today. We’ll discover more about the Tare survey results in next week’s blog. Please join me then.

WC Stewart


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