I was brought up in the UK–a post-Christian culture. To be honest, there are advantages to such a situation. Where there is even mild persecution (ridicule) it produces a different standard of disciple. There’s a cost to becoming a follower of Jesus, and those who do so have counted that cost.
I watched the UK slide from being a “Christian” nation to its current status where maybe less than 2% of the population are committed Christians. When I was a child, most of the country still found it acceptable to attend church. By the time I arrived at medical school, certainly within academia, Christians were put down and their views (“You really believe the Bible is true?!”) ridiculed. Christians in the media were consistently made fun of and displayed as ineffective “wimps.” Now, with notable exceptions, church has ceased to be relevant in any way within the culture.
This country is already well down that slippery slope.
- In America, 3,500-4,000 churches close their doors each year. Balanced against this is the number of church starts. From 2000 to 2005, there was a net growth of 303 churches per year (closures combined with new church starts.) This sounds great until you realize that we need to gain 3,205 per year just to keep up with population growth. We are less “churched” now than we’ve ever been.
- Historically, between 5 percent and 10 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation. That number has skyrocketed to between 30 percent and 40 percent among younger Americans.
- Christianity within secular academic circles is consistently mocked. We have friends who teach within the university system, and they tread a very fine line in order to hold their positions if they are known as believers.
We are probably only a generation away from being where Europe is now.
Are we in crisis, and is there anything we can do about it?
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5 replies on “Is Christianity in the USA in crisis?”
Well, if MOST enter through the wide door into Hell, and FEW enter through the small gate and walk the narrow path to Life (Mat 7), and if this has always been true, I don’t think the number of Christians is decreasing. I think the number of nominal Christian is skyfalling but the number of true Christians who have Christ and know Him and seek Him is about the same as ever.
Thank God for the rising persecution against Christians – thus we can be broken, as jars of clay, and the light of Christ, our treasure inside, can shine through all the brighter.
Eric, I think you are probably right–that the number of nominal Christians in this country is huge–their lifestyles, as shown by the statistics such as divorce rate, Internet pornography etc. sadly proving it. And I also agree that persecution often serves to strengthen Christians.
However, it is sad to see the USA which was founded as “one nation under God” leaving its heritage behind and pursuing materialism and other idols.
From a biblical, historical and personal perspective, blessings, affluence, sufficiency and safety, can lead to the letting the guard down and losing our grip on what really matters in this life and the life to come. Crisis brings a person or a nation into a realization of how far he has gone. In God’s mercy, anyone can bring himself back on track. But there is always a price to pay. God can intervene at any point in our life or history and make things new and for the better than we can possibly think and imagine. This is true in the life of an individual person or a nation. “If my people….” (2 Chr.7:14).
Crisis is an opportunity to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Fire removes the dross and what survives is the genuine and lasting element.
Crisis also brings the messengers of Good News to the examination of their own lives, their message and the delivery methods for the goods. Change, at whatever level and form, is inevitable. It is costly and painful. But it brings healing and restoration.
Closures of churches happen among those who have been established for years. Many of them have great legacies and spawned other movements. Unfortunately, they have not considered giving up the old wineskins. The significant number of the newly established churches come from the ethnic minority groups. These new immigrants brought with them a missionary spirit and total dependence on God. However, even these new churches are not immuned from experiencing what happened to those before them. The following generations could begin losing their grip as well. “Ease rottens the soul of a person or nation.” Crisis has a redemptive purpose.
But we are not hopeless and helpless. Elijah complained, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Ki. 19:10; see: 18:4). The LORD answered, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouth have not kissed him” (1 Ki. 19:18). God is sovereign and will not leave himself without a witness.
God is doing something new. The emerging church movement, mostly still under the radar, I believe is the hope of this nation. From my understanding of mission history, God singles out individuals to blaze the trail and it took 45-50 years for the church as a whole, to begin catching up with what God is doing. Today, God is building and army led by nameless and faceless servants of God. They are coming together without care for their “egos and logos,” as Neil Cole puts it. That is exciting!
On the other hand we could argue quite differently from the same starting point. How much does it matter whether 50%, 5%, or 0.5% of the population are believing followers of Jesus?
In one sense it changes nothing, my calling is still to share the good news, make disciples, and encourage my brothers and sisters. I am still to love the Most High, love my brothers and sisters, love my neighbours and love my enemies.
I think you are right, Felicity. The church is in decline in the USA and perhaps also in the UK (where I live); I hope it has bottomed out here now – but who knows?
Father, give us the wisdom and the courage to obey you wherever we live and whatever scale of minority we are. Keep filling us with your Spirit so that we will bear abundant fruit. Especially, Lord, cause love, joy, patience, kindness and other attractive fruit to develop in us so that others will see, in us, a little of your nature.
Use us however you wish, Lord. And may all the glory be yours, always.
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