I am writing this blog because I believe we are nearing the end to Christian influence in our world.
Christianity thrives in other places, but in the West where Christianity has been the dominant religion for millennia, there has been a staggering decline of influence and numbers. Church attendance in America is declining by 1% to 3% each year according to the best estimates , four out of five young people in our country leave the church by the age of twenty-three , 83% of clergy now believe that the church is losing influence in our culture . These statistics paint a grim picture of the future of Christian institutions.
Traditional Christian approaches to spreading the faith, which have relied heavily on mass media and big programs, are not effective in this post-Christian age. The world has already heard us and has stopped listening. They are not impressed. The church has been weighed in the balance of public morality and has been found wanting.
We may blame a lot of factors for this decline, but the cause lies with ourselves. Christianity has lost its preeminence mainly because Christ is no longer preeminent in the hearts of those who claim Him. Egotism, power, and consumerism are just as present in institutional churches as in society in general. Professional Christianity is just one more career path to worldly power.
For the first three centuries of the faith, Christians were a persecuted, slandered and misunderstood minority. Even so, their inner qualities of compassion, joy and faith in Christ drew others to believe. The Christian church grew because the Christians acted like Christ. They didn’t just preach the Gospel, they lived it. God’s Word became flesh in them and people noticed. Their lives and their sermons sent the same message.
In times of persecution and darkness, the Gospel does not shine through institutional churches, but through the quiet witness of lives transformed by Spirit into the image of Christ. When we Christians lose our way, we always find it again in personal interaction with our Lord.
Darkness is falling over the institutional church in America, but the message of the Gospel survives in the witness of individual Christians transformed by His Spirit and love. We can’t stop the coming darkness, but we can light the stars. The hope of Christians in the future doesn’t lie in big churches but in the light of faithful believers who live in imitation of Christ.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
Lighting the stars is what this blog is all about. How do we shine in the midst of the darkness? How do we hold onto Christ with all we are?
I don’t have all the answers, but I invite you to explore the questions with me.
I hope along the way you will join me in this discussion. Each week I will suggest a question that will hopefully encourage you to write.
Write and let me know what you think:
— Do you think we are seeing a decline in Christian faith in the west?
— What do you think is the biggest cause of this decline?