Is Christianity Dying and irrelevant?

Is Christianity dying and irrelevant?

Experts today tells us that American Christianity is on its way out. Is the Church in decline? Will the Faith disappear? Let’s talk.

Fewer and Fewer "Christians"

We’ve been told that America is 50 to 75 years behind Europe. The idea is that by the time your grandkids grow up, there won’t be any churches for them to attend. All church buildings will become museums or something else. What do we think about this?

It is true that the numbers seem to indicate that more and more Americans are labelling themselves as what are called “NONES” – no affiliation with any organized religious body. The experts jump to the conclusion that that means that the faith is dying away and that eventually there will only be a secular society left and Christianity will be irrelevant. It will be quaint, nothing more than a local church here or there in rural settings that just hold on to the old ways.

Well, not so fast. While it is true that when any worldview gains broad acceptance in a culture, it becomes easy to connect with it even if you don’t have any deep convictional beliefs about that. That has happened in America for a long time. The cultural value of identifying yourself as a Christian in this country has traditionally brought respectability. It’s brought business contacts. It’s the thing to do in most neighborhoods.

As that has declined, we find that there are really three categories of "Christians" nowadays. There are what we call "Cultural Christians." Those are people who simply identify as Christian because they know that they are not Hindu or Buddhists or Muslim. And that seems to be the only option left. And this of course they think is a Christian nation, so of course I’m a Christian.

The next category, are the "Church Going Christians." Those are the people that once or twice a year, like clockwork, they make their way to church. And if you ask them, they’ll not only say they are a Christian. They’ll say, “Yea, I go to such and such a church.” They’ll never mention how few times annually they actually go to that church.

Then there are what we call "Conversion Christians." Those are people who have a faith that is transformational in their lives. It actually makes a difference in who they are and how they live, and in how they think.

What the stats are showing us now, I believe, is that because the connection to Christianity in our culture has less tangible benefits, societal attitudes favorable to Christianity, it is those who are in the categories of the Cultural Christians and the Church Going Christians that are now no longer feeling it necessary to claim the label. And so, they have labeled themselves as NONES. They no longer attach themselves to Christianity because they no longer feel the need to or they don’t see the benefit of it.

And yet, when you pierce the numbers to a deeper level, what you find out is that Conversion Christians are surprisingly alive and well in America. Now what we may be seeing happen here is in the years ahead we may be nationwide becoming more like what we now see in the Pacific Northwest. A highly secular section of the country where people claim to be spiritual but not religious. And yet, in that cultural context there are vibrant, growing, sincere Bible-believing, Bible-teaching churches that are making an impact for the Kingdom. I think that’s actually the future of America.

Is it really so bad?

Now, I think the dying away of this thing called Cultural Christianity is actually a good thing for the Church. For most of American history it was possible to be a Christian in the sense that you identified yourself with a kind of distorted form of the faith that was more tied to the American Dream than to a Biblical worldview. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is transformed with Cultural Christianity into a substantial retirement account, a house with a two-car garage and as many social media followers as you can gain. This has been labeled in some circles Moral Therapeutic Deism. That is, a faith that is defined by a distant god who’s really more of a cosmic ATM than anything else. We stick in our religion card and he just provides what it is we need. And the only thing he really cares about is that we’re nice to each other and we feel good about ourselves. This fake god is a god with no theological or historical specificity. He’s actually closer to our idea of Santa Claus than to Yahweh, the Great I AM of scripture. This god began to flourish probably in the 1960’s with the philosophical movement that we called The Death of God movement. What we have now in its place is a convenient comfortable quaint little system of personal and societal uplifting. Predictably that toothless kind of nice-guy Christianity is dying away. And honestly, I’m OK with that. What we’re seeing in the church is healthy pruning away of that kind of mutant and neutered form of the faith that has traditionally been culturally fashionable.

Rather than being a cause for alarm, the dying away of that fringe of the faith can be seen as an opportunity. It’s always been easy in America to be a Christian. In fact, it’s still easier in America than in most other nations around the world. But the fact of the matter is, going to church once or twice a year is not the definition of what a Bible believing Jesus follower looks like. It’s time for the Church to be clarified. Ed Stetzer uses that phrase. He says, “The Church is not collapsing it’s being clarified.”  I like that. In other words, we are eliminating this idea that Christianity is just something that respectable people do and we’re getting back to the Biblical idea that Christianity is made up of those people who are actively, aggressively, passionately chasing after Jesus. There’s no collapse here.

While the majority of our population would consider themselves spiritual but not Christian, I’m OK with that. Because what God is doing is, as churches are losing their cultural Christians and their Church going Christians, what’s happening is the doors of some churches are beginning to close over the next few years. But God is consolidating Conversion Christians in churches that are teaching from His Word, who are preparing for the cultural battles to come. I never know if we’re living in the Last Days or not. But I do know that it’s time for the Church to recover what it means to be the Church.

Will real Christianity please stand up?

If Christianity cannot be found in American culture or as an expression of the traditional American dream where can we find actual Biblical Christianity? Well, let me read some verses to you from the first chapter of a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote that we call 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul tells us that you can find the secrets, the mystery of God in a couple of unexpected places. The first, he says that wisdom of God, that truth that God reveals to us was hidden in the Cross. Let me read you a couple of verses from 1 Corinthians 1. In verse 18 it says,

"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of those who have understanding I will confound. Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world?"

You see, the argument that Paul has here is, the world always thinks that they’re smart enough to figure out how to live life. But he says the Cross is the secret to truly understanding the plan of God. Now think about it this way. Here’s why the Cross seemed so silly in our secular culture. It’s as if God said, “OK, this is how I’m going to save humanity. I’m going to come Myself in disguise. I’ll be born in a barn to an unmarried couple. I’ll live in obscurity for 30 years. I’ll wander from village to town. I’ll surround Myself with emotionally unpredictable friends. I’ll make Myself an enemy of the powerful and the influential. I’ll go to Jerusalem straight into their trap. I’ll be beaten and mocked and I’ll die there like a common criminal.” Hm? Is it any wonder the world can’t see God’s plan in all of this? And yet what happens at the cross is God makes a way for us to be saved from our sin, to be transformed into a new creation. You have to look for it. It’s there.

Let me tell you the second place you can find the truth of God. And this is going to sound silly when I say it. You can find the truth of God in a Bible teaching church. Also, in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, Paul says this:

"For consider your calling brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong the insignificant things of the world and despised God has chosen. The things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are."

In other words, the world looks at the Church and says, “You don’t even have anybody impressive there. There’s no celebrities. There’s no millionaires. There’s none of the movers and shakers that our culture adores and worships.” And yet, that’s Paul’s point. The Church is not made up of celebrities and millionaires and movers and shakers. It’s made up of regular folk. Regular folk that have been transformed by the power of God in their lives by the presence of God in their souls.

“The Church is where you can find the faith, are you kidding?” Most churches are a rag-tag collection of immature misfits. Most of us have been hurt by the church at some point along the way. If anything, if you ask most people they’d say, “The church is probably God’s big blunder, not God’s great secret.” And yet, here’s what true. God’s intention is to change the world. And His strategy is to change the world through the Church. They’re a lot of church buildings in America. They’re a lot of gatherings of people in those church buildings. But the New Testament says, go find a place where they’re not just gathering in a church building, not just a collection of individuals who voluntarily show up at the same time at the same place. Instead, go find a church. A Church is the Body of Christ. A Church is the strategy of God to change the world. Understand that what God is doing in the lives of people in places like that, He’s playing out the drama of redemption. Not just for your neighbors to see. He’s playing out the drama of redemption in our lives for the cosmos to see.

Folks, there are angels and demons who stand amazed at what they see Jesus doing in the lives of His people. Like refracted light, we sit at the wrong angle to see everything that God is doing. But those invisible realities, they have a front row seat and they are astonished. In fact, the Bible tells us that angels stare in amazement at the work of God in the lives of His children. And they celebrate when someone new comes into the kingdom.

The Gospel is on display at the Cross and in the Church. Quit being a respectable cultural and church going Christian. Find your way to Jesus. Be transformed and then live out a faith that matters.

Following Christ is not a golden ticket to a white picket fence American dream. It’s an invitation to die, to pick up a cross. Christians are those who give themselves away in love and sacrifice to advance the kingdom that is not of this world. C.S. Lewis said this, "I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity."

But if you’re ready for something beyond comfortable and you’re ready to change the world in your generation, Biblical Christianity, a Bible teaching Jesus chasing church, that’s where you’ll find a place where you can change your generation.

This is TruthCurrents.






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