The New York Times declared that Christianity in America is declining and I say “Amen to that!”
Actually, the article’s title is “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian” and that’s why I’m happy it’s true. The Times piece is based on a Pew Research Center survey, which shows that people are abandoning the moniker of Christian religious identity in favor of post-modern nihilism.
The biggest declines are in Mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations. If you’re a Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian (PCUSA), Episcopal, Congregationalist, or Disciple of Christ, you’re becoming a rarer commodity. And that’s a good thing.
I personally have nothing against those denominations, but Scripture records that Jesus does.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
If you’re not a Christian—and Nate Cohn, who covers polling and demographics for the Times certainly isn’t—you may not get the difference between denominations. I know I didn’t. I grew up Jewish and didn’t know a Presbyterian from a Pentecostal, or a Calvinist from a Congregationalist. They were all the same to me: Jesus on a cross, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” eating dry crackers and drinking wine, and strange traditions like Easter Sunday ham and Christmas trees.
Many Christians growing up in an increasingly Godless world know Christianity the same way I did: a bunch of strange traditions their parents did, and they also did, without meaning or effect on their lives. This brand of Christianity is the one people are born into, and as those parents die, empty traditions get abandoned.
The Pew survey results are entirely predictable, and actually very refreshing. Whole denominations complete with clergy, laity, buildings, parking lots, and piles of cash don’t do a whole lot of good for the kingdom of heaven Jesus described. God doesn’t need any of that.
Imagine entire congregations filled with unbelievers worshiping a God they don’t know. The unbelieving worship leader leads the unbelieving choir in meaningless hymns while the unbelieving congregation sits reverently. After the unbelieving pastor delivers an uninspired sermon and a pointless doxology offering empty praise to the God they don’t know, everyone rushes out with pasted fake smiles and a weak handshake for the pastor.
There are lots of churches like this all over America, and thankfully, that number is declining, as the Times notes. Thank God for that, because it’s a colossal waste of time and energy for these useless organizations, who harm the cause of Christ, to exist.
The Evangelical Protestant (Baptists, Pentecostals and others) denominations are not in decline, and in fact have added to their raw numbers. Churches from countries where Christian persecution is the norm are taking root in America.
There is no greater example than the Redeemed Christian Church of God. This ambitious Nigerian denomination has established its North American headquarters in Texas, and its goal is nothing less than becoming the next major global religion.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God has learned it’s a lot easier to start churches in Nigeria than it is in America. First, there are not enough trained, qualified ministers. Then there’s the expense of getting an American congregation to tithe enough to pay church expenses.
Finally, Nigerians at home seem closer to God. Life is harder there; people pray over everything from a hospital stay to a traffic jam. Fadele says Africans in America are more comfortable.
“What do I need God for?” Fadele characterizes their attitude. “I wake up in the morning, the radio is already broadcasting to me how my stock is doing. Is it going up or down? The road is good. When I get inside my house, the heater is working. My children are well educated, they are doing well. What do I need God for?”
Those in the congregation of the unbelieving host of Christ don’t need God, and they’re leaving the trappings of religion in droves. But what non-Christians in media, education and government can’t understand is that Christianity isn’t the church.
Christians are better off persecuted. In fact, Christ demands it, and the entire Christian experience is designed to be persecuted. Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
A church that has no troubles, goes along with the culture in every way, and ignores God does not overcome. And therefore it dies or is gathered to be burned.
I would rather live in an America where the Christian church burns hot, even if surveys show it’s become a tiny minority, losing 90% of its current identity, than have a majority of unbelieving “Christians.” Those who call themselves Christian without surrender to Jesus Christ are not doing themselves or anyone else any favors.
Let the church in America decline and fall and I’ll say “Amen!” Let the wheat be separated from the tares, let the goats be separated from the sheep.
Let the Church composed of believers and followers of Christ fulfill Matthew 16:18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
It’s okay that non-Christians like Nate Cohn don’t understand this. There really is only one way to understand it, and that’s to accept the Gospel. To me, it’s a whole lot easier sharing the (actual) Gospel with declared unbelievers than trying to share it with pasty-smile unbeliever Christians in their unbeliever church anyway.
(crossposted from sgberman.com)