It is a commonly accepted notion that the Christian church is in a tailspin. Almost every week a new article or blog surfaces (See HERE, HERE, and HERE, for example) which read, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!“, but at the end of the day, I’m ignoring those fearful chickens. Sure, I know of some churches that are in a decline, but I also know of many others that are flourishing.
We all are well aware that statistics can be spun many directions, but even the stats on this are ultimately indecisive. For instance, church attendance for a single Sunday may be as low as 25% of Americans, but if you were to check over the course of a month, attendance/involvement would climb to upwards of 40%. In fact, the number of self-identified Christians in America has fallen a mere 10%, now hovering around 75%.
For one, Modern Christians – for the most part – have realized that a building the church is not. With their busy schedules, they aren’t afraid to miss a Sunday or three if that’s how the cards fall. So, though they would definitely still call themselves Christians, & even active in a local church, unlike 20 years ago, it’s very unlikely the modern church member will be there every Sunday. That obviously will influence the data towards decline, if you want to spin the numbers that way. But it doesn’t mean that there are fewer Christians.
Secondly, the further we move into an all-immersive technological age, the less the church building will be the cultural hub of a community. At one time, church members attended Sunday morning, came back together on Sunday night, met for Bible study on Wednesday, & came to monthly events. Now many Christians get the “meat” of the Bible teaching online, the community hubs revolve around favorite sports teams, & their children’s clubs/events, & the primary fellowship happens with like-minded Christian friends in the back yard, around the kitchen table, or scattered across the living room floor on a Friday or Saturday night. In fact, I know a great many solid Christian friends of mine who have stopped doing the normal “church” thing altogether, choosing instead to fellowship with the people they weekly invite into their homes & lives, forming their own Christian community – their own church, of sorts.
Thirdly, given Atheisms’ recent ‘marketing campaigns’, making it possible to openly espouse unbelief without immediately being suspect of child molestation or serial murders, those raised in the church who used to just “play church” in their community for the sake of fitting in, no longer feel the need to do so. That’s not an honest decline – that’s just apple & oranges, & the oranges are no longer pretending!
Lastly, the only clear, proven decline in membership is of denominational churches, and of those, most drastically the more liberal leaning of the bunch. So, churches more concerned with being A) social clubs that have long stopped being concerned with the “Jesus Myth” (at least, what they honestly see as a myth), or B) the guardians of a specific group of traditions, over and even against being concerned about Jesus… those churches are dying. Are we surprised? A bar is also a potential social club, & is far more interesting than most churches, & unless one likes history & is an employee of a museum, for the average American guarding traditions is pretty low on the totem pole. As people who concern themselves with those sorts of things die off, those churches will fade. And those “churches” – if we can Biblically call them that – need to go. That was never what the church was intended to be.
When I look around me, I see new churches & church plants, full of people excited about Jesus, the Gospel, & the Kingdom of God, making huge strides, gathering momentum, impacting others & their communities with the powerful truth of the Gospel. I see those churches growing – adding to their numbers weekly. And, worldwide, Christianity is still by far the fasted growing religion – non-denominational charismatic Christians in particular are spreading by upwards of 8% annually, & in China – the largest nation on Earth – there are currently more “underground Christians” than Communists, and it’s a Communist country!
No, the church is not dead, nor is it dying. It may go through some growing pains, but in the end I know all will be well, because Jesus made a promise to Peter, & to all of us as well. He said, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). That’s Jesus-speak for, “The church is going to be JUST FINE.” You see, “this rock” was Peters confession of Jesus as “Savior“, & “King” (that’s what “Son of God” means in Bible-speak – “Son of Man”, on the other hand, means Divine Being – it can be confusing, I know) – those are the foundation stone of Christ’s church. And Jesus promised that she would be triumphant – not even HELL could fight her back!
So, I’m not too worried – I think Jesus’ church is going to be just fine.
Let’s speak with honor, & not name any names, but what do YOU think about the current state of the church?