Is the American Church Dying or Are Christians Just Hiding?
Jesus began with 12 apostles (Matt. 10:1-6), expanded to 70 disciples (Luke 10:1), and around 120 at Pentecost (Acts 1:15). Before long, the gospel has been preached to the then-known world (Matt. 24:14; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim 3:16).
Today, there are tens of millions of Christians worldwide, and yet, our effect on the world seems to be diminishing. So while church attendance among Bible-believing denominations is holding steady, the impact of these churches and the people who attend services each week don’t have a comprehensive biblical worldview.
The good news is that churches are thriving but I find that many Christians don’t think that different from the world. Why? Because pastors are often afraid to address controversial subjects for fear of alienating their members. It’s no wonder that many Christians are capitulating to the same-sex agenda.
A new study shows that half of American pastors worry about preaching on hot-button social issues—like abortion and LGBTQ issues—worried they might offend someone.
While the majority of pastors agree their job is to help Christians have biblical beliefs about specific issues, many feel added pressure from outside and within the church and are struggling to figure out how to communicate in the public sphere. (Charisma News)
The good news is that not all is lost as Christian pastors and ministries are taking a stand. The following is a developing story:
[A]fter a disastrous Q&A at a Ligonier event in which Ligon Duncan endorsed the work of a gay Anglican priest, reports are circulating that Ligonier has done some soul-searching regarding how much they want to be affiliated with the biggest social justice advocates out there, with Duncan and [Al] Mohler included. According to reports today, this soul-searching has led to a severing of the official relationship between Albert Mohler and Ligonier. (Pulpit and Pen)
Our culture is living off borrowed Christian capital, and what’s left of it is being withdrawn at a rapid rate.
Around half of Americans favor religion playing a greater role in US society, while 18 percent oppose that idea, according to a Pew Research Center study published [April 22, 2019]…. In the US, the proportion rose to 61 percent among people aged 50 and over but dropped to 39 percent among 18 to 29-year-olds.
It’s not that we don’t have the numbers. What we lack is a long-term transformational purpose.
Michael Youssef, the founder of Leading the Way Ministry in Atlanta, had this to say on the topic:
“In the end, you have to decide, ‘Are you going to please God and obey His Word, or are you going to please people?'” Youssef said. “Now as Bible-believing Christians, we love everybody. We have no foes because love casts out fear … but as we love people, we must say as pastors, ‘Thus says the Lord.'”
And when it comes to hot-button issues, Youssef doesn’t shy away.
“If it’s in the book, I’m going to preach it,” he said. “All of us as pastors, we have dealt with families who have children who have all sorts of lifestyles, and I will say to them, ‘You love them and then you love them and then you love them some more, but you never compromise your conviction.’ I would say, ‘I love you but I would not approve of what you’re doing.'”
The Georgia pastor believes it’s their job to speak the truth in love without fear because it’s the pastor’s job to speak for God to the congregation.
“The moment that is reversed, we’re going to please people and we’re not going to please God, we’re in trouble, and that’s what’s happening in America,” he added. “The reason morality has gone out of the window is because the pulpits—and I lay the blame on the pulpits and the preachers—have ceased to preach the truth.”
I agree with Youssef. The thing of it is, he teaches that we are facing a near eschatological end. The following is from Dr. Youseff’s article “The Fall of Dictators and the Antichrist” that was published on the Christian Post website. Here’s part of what he wrote:
The Bible indicates that a world-dominating character will rise at some point. That person is often referred to as the Antichrist.
The Antichrist has certain characteristics that appear to fit many past despots, which led some to speculate about Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein, for example. But speculations are not very helpful. Because of contradictory elements within suspected people, it will be very difficult to predict the Antichrist until he actually appears on the scene and identifies himself publicly.
The Antichrist will show up at a time when there’s true global, political, social, and economic upheaval. And people will believe that he is the only one capable of solving those seemingly insurmountable problems.
He will be charismatic and affable, and he’ll mesmerize people everywhere. Even those normally at odds with each other will be united in liking and following him. He will win global approval by his sheer ability to identify with people of all religions and of no religion at all. Only after he is able to receive adoration from the masses will he reveal his true character and intentions. (Townhall)
How does a Christian reconcile preaching about everything the Bible teaches and facing an inevitable prophetic end? Is there any reason to address controversial topics when effective change can’t be realized because the antichrist is probably alive at this moment?
The following article offers some good news but it needs to be supplemented with eschatological optimism. — Gary DeMar
By Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.
One often hears dire reports in the media about the impending doom of the Christian church. But Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family recently wrote an article in the Federalist that showed such reports may be premature.
Stanton notes, “Religious faith in America is going the way of the Yellow Pages and travel maps, we keep hearing. It’s just a matter of time until Christianity’s total and happy extinction, chortle our cultural elites. Is this true? Is churchgoing and religious adherence really in ‘widespread decline’ so much so that conservative believers should suffer ‘growing anxiety’? Two words: Absolutely not. New research published late last year by scholars at Harvard University and Indiana University Bloomington is just the latest to reveal the myth.” [emphasis his]
Stanton is summarizing the research of Landon Schnabel of Indiana University and Sean Bock of Harvard University from their article in Sociological Science. They write, “Recent research argues that the United States is secularizing, that this religious change is consistent with the secularization thesis, and that American religion is not exceptional.”
But their own research leads them to deduce otherwise: “We conclude that intense religion in the United States is persistent and exceptional in ways that do not fit the secularization thesis.”
I interviewed Glenn Stanton on my radio show recently on this subject: Is the American church dying?
He told me, “You hear that everywhere, and you even hear it in the church from good Christian speakers, leaders, and pastors. They say that young people are leaving the church in droves, and there may not even be a Christian church in America in the next couple of years. And it’s just simply not true.” [emphasis his]
Stanton is the author of eight books, and he has a new one coming out soon, called, The Myth of the Dying Church, with a Foreword by Baylor’s Byron Johnson.
Stanton said the research shows that, “far from dying, “the best parts of Christianity (biblical Christianity, or what C. S. Lewis called ‘mere Christianity’) are growing in the United States and just blossoming around the world.”
He said the key is to understand the difference between the mainline churches (the older and now generally more liberal churches—and the evangelical, Bible-based churches). The former are in “freefall,” with members leaving en masse. But that’s because these churches have “long abandoned the basics of the Christian faith.”
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that the essence of Christianity is that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; He was buried; and on the third day, He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures.
Paul even says about these basic truths, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” This is a good thing to be reminded of at this Easter time.
Yet, Stanton notes, many of the more liberal Protestant churches and their leaders have long abandoned these basics of the faith. They have also compromised on biblical morality (e.g., sexual issues, including abortion). These are the churches in America that are dying.
Stanton told me, speaking of these liberal churches, “They are bailing on the basics of Christianity, and, guess what? People are bailing on them. People are leaving those churches as if the buildings are on fire, and do you know where they are going? They are not going nowhere. They are going to the biblically faithful churches, and those are the churches that are growing. So basically what we have here is a great, great good news story. Yes, some parts of Christianity are declining, but those are the people that are compromising the faith. They might as well become Unitarians or something like that.”
I remember reading that only 20 percent of modern day Unitarian Universalists even call themselves Christians. Why pretend?
Jesus said to the professing Christians of Laodicea, “I would that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of My mouth.”
In his article for the Federalist, Stanton observes, “The percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today.”
Stanton adds, “The number of church attendees has continued to rise each and every decade over our nation’s history right up until the present day.”
So, as has been said, “The good news is: the bad news is wrong.”
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback) djkm.org @newcombejerry www.jerrynewcombe.com