America is no longer a Christian nation. I don’t mean that there are not plenty of Christians in America. What I mean is that our leaders and our neighbors are no longer basing their decisions on biblical truths. To deny that is to deny reality. The America with the Bible as her belt and the buckle in the South is no more. So what does this mean for our churches?
A recent Pew Research Center study found that “Christianity is on the decline in America”. Christian’s share of the population fell from 78.4% to 70% since 2007.
What does this mean for us? Very plainly, it means that the nature of the church is going to change. A new reality is coming faster than we realize. The American church was born, incubated, and matured in a culture based on Judeo-Christian (biblical) values. The American church then went on to impact the world through missions and church planting reaching nearly every nation on earth. The culture that bred this kind of church no longer exists. Our culture is now only loosely based on Judeo-Christian values, if it still is at all. Our leaders in politics and business no longer make their decisions through a filter of a biblical worldview, or at least with regards to the moral values as present in Scripture. They make their decisions, and steer our country, based on pragmatic, ever changing, humanistic reasoning. The church grew up in a home, an environment, that no longer exists. The cultural moorings that helped to hold her in place have been removed.
America as we’ve known it is no more. And that’s a good thing for the church.
It’s good because the church in America will need to change, and the change will make her stronger. Most specifically, in the new reality opposition and rejection from your community will be the norm. Opposition will come because of what you and your church stand for. Opposition because of what you will not be quiet about, what you will not accept, and what you will not allow. Political, economic, cultural, and possibly physical persecution is coming.
As this new reality comes, your church will change in three primary ways:
1) Your church will be leaner.
Some people will leave your congregation. Maybe a lot will leave. Maybe this will create financial problems. Maybe it will create morale problems. The good news is that leaner churches don’t necessarily die, they just get faster and smarter.
2) Your church will be faster.
A missionary mindset to accomplish our mission NOW will be evident in the new church that develops. You will react to needs and problems in different ways. One of the things that I perceive about many American churches is how slow they are to do anything. Our desire to plan effectively for the future paralyzes us in the present. If a missionary on the field is starting a new work, he must be fast. He must reach people now. He must disciple them now. He must feed and care for them now. In the new reality of the American mission field, your new church will be faster, a necessity for survival.
3) Your church will be more committed.
The people that stay will be more commitment to the mission of the gospel. The new reality will separate the “boys from the men” as it were. The allure of the world and the illusion that it really matters will shatter. In the coming new reality Christians will come to realize what is really important: citizenship in Heaven, not citizenship on earth.
Leaner, faster, and more committed; sounds like a good thing to me.
Throughout Christian history, persecution always brings growth. At first, I honestly believe the shifting American cultural landscape and the new reality will cause scores of people to leave the church. But then, as a serious Christianity emerges, serious believers will be drawn to the church again. A serious faith for a serious time.
So out with the broadway productions on Sunday morning, in with deep doctrinal study. Out with giving the minimal amount of tithes we can, in with giving the maximum in offering to God. Out with living a compartmentalized faith that exists only on Sunday morning, in with living for Jesus every day. Out with the old reality of the church, and in with the new.
Some, including me, believe this change will be for the best. Perhaps not the best for the country, but the best for American churches. As Russel Moore notes, the type of Christianity that simply reflects culture “only lasts as long as it is useful to its host.” It is no longer useful to many people, so they are abandoning it.
The light that shines in the darkness shines brightest, and the darkness is upon us. The new reality is coming.
The question is – are you and your church ready for this?