I was just reading a post from one of my favorite bloggers. This person said they were noticing a decline in Christianity and in the way people view Christians.
It really broke my heart to see that because it is the same experience thousands of other Christians are having in their own communities across America. This post will most likely be long. I feel the need to talk about my observations of this topic. It is not a criticism of the other blogger (I highly respect this person!), but rather what I have seen with my own eyes from where I live and those I am connected to through the body of Christ.
Let me just jump right in.
First and foremost, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We cannot forget this. When we forget this, we start panicking when we see people leaving our churches or “backsliding”. We have to remember if He stays the same then either we are doing something to directly or indirectly push them away, or God is cleaning house. OR BOTH…. Which is very likely based on the current state of our nation.
If Jesus is the same, and the problem is that WE are doing something wrong, then what is it that we need to change?
We have to stop being so divisive within the church.
Look at the lack of unity there is in the church. I can’t even name all the different denominations there are. The Bible gives us the understanding we are supposed to have on this.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 NKJV
Sectarianism Is Sin
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
(Let me be clear. Based on these verses, I do not believe the church should have denominations. The church I belong to is connected to a denomination, but myself and many of the members consider ourselves nondenominational because of the direction the church is moving. We are still unified as a body.)
There are denominations that have been founded when people within a church begin to disagree to the point that some people leave and start their own church to preach what they think is right. They say they are church planting (which is actually a thing so I am not speaking against real church planting) but in reality, their church split because of disunity or wounds inflicted on each other and now they are building a new church foundation on top of animosity toward their brethren.
This was the beginning of some of the most prominent denominations within Christianity. This is why if you go to the South you will see multiple churches of different denominations in every community. Everyone wants to bring what they think is the truth to their community.
There is one highway that goes through a small town near where I live and there are 4 churches within 2 miles. All visible from the main road. All of which do not have large attendance. All of which have been there probably longer than the 25 years I have been alive. The surrounding community is poor and most of the people living there don’t attend these churches. The church people there seem nice but the churches are not growing. This is partly because they were built on a foundation of resentment toward other denominations, among other reasons. Which brings me to my next point…
You need the younger generation in the church for the church to survive and thrive.
There has been much said about the current young adults and teens in America. I’ve been an adult for 7 years, married for more than 4 years, and I STILL have people older than me start conversations with me with the words “your generation (insert complaint here).” It is never ending.
Here is a video I watched recently that well describes some of my thoughts on this if you want to watch before your continue reading.
With that being said, my point is that people cannot continue to shift all the blame onto the children, teens, and young adults in the church and expect them to stick around through adulthood. They need truth and discipleship starting at home and with the church as a family.
Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
This may mean you have to admit that you haven’t always said or done the right thing and make intentional steps to change your approach for the better. You cannot just birth children, take them to church, let them attend children’s church if the stories are watered down, then attend a youth group if they aren’t building a real foundation because they play games and eat pizza every time there is an opportunity to learn something, then just send them off to college and expect them to automatically know what to do or how to apply the Word of God in every life situation.
They need to be part of a family that prays and pursues the things of God together, and they need to be part of a church that reinforces that. This enables them to go out into the world and repeat that and build on it.
These children are reaching milestones in their lives without being prepared for the spiritual battles they will be facing. They can’t reconcile the craziness of this world with the goodness of God. Because of this, they turn away. They stop coming to church because they don’t feel or understand the Holy Spirit and they don’t want to go through the motions of religion. They want more. Our spirits cry out for more because we were created to be in communion with God.
So these young people stop going to church and that only leaves the parents and grandparents who attend. Not only are there less people, but now the people who are attending are broken over the loss of their babies to the world. Some parents show unconditional love and pray that their children return. Some parents cut off their children because they feel like they should’ve known better than to abandon their faith.
The problem here is that they probably never had real meaningful faith. They had the idea of faith in their minds and not in their hearts. If they truly knew God, lived by the leading of His Spirit, and felt His love, they wouldn’t want to leave that behind for anything in this world.
People who have had an encounter with God and have that firm foundation in Him do not leave the church easily. They do not just wake up one day and decide they don’t want to do it anymore. Either they never had true faith, or they love God and they just didn’t feel loved by the people or the church they were part of.
Passion is something we develop in our youth. We are looking at a generation of the most passionate people the world has ever seen. God created them that way for a purpose. Unfortunately, all of them don’t have the foundation they need to live out that passion on the correct platform. It is getting distorted and not bringing God the glory. Imagine the passion with which they pursue the world being directed toward pursuing God instead. That is what we are born for.
This has been a major issue with my generation and those younger than me. But it is becoming a growing self-realization with people who have been in church for 30 years or more as well. I have increasingly seen people leave churches they have been at for years and taking their families with them as a result of not feeling connected to the people or not feeling connected to God through the church they attend. They finally hit a wall. They are tired of not having that passion for God and not seeing His promises fulfilled in their life, family, and church.
They lack deep understanding, relationships, and passion. They don’t all turn away from God. They just struggle to find a church they feel like is a reflection of what God promised.
Some of these people leave church completely while others try to find a new church. Church-hopping is what people call it. It can be successful in helping them find a church home if the seekers are forgiving and have the right motives in the search. But a lot of these people end up hopping around and never feel truly connected to the body, keeping everyone at arm’s length.
I am finally making it to my last point. Thank you for patiently reading this far!
How can we evangelize and bring in new members, or even just keep the members we have?
When we operate out of pure love and compassion, people see something in us that is different. It isn’t tolerance. It is grace. It is forgiveness. It is hope. It is the Holy Spirit.
When we stop looking for reasons to be quick to point out sin in others, when we start loving them where they are at, and when we pray for them and have a servant’s heart toward them even when they don’t deserve it, then they will see Jesus in us. Then they will want what we have and He will lead them to change.
It cannot be pushed on people and it cannot be received through simply growing up in church. Every person must be presented with the fundamental truths to make their own decision and it has to be done in love toward them.
Churches that understand this are seeing new and lasting salvations every week in church, in the workplace, on the streets, the grocery store, and at schools.
I have seen it with my own church and I have seen it in numerous churches in our nation.
I’ll give you an example. A man from our church passed away last week and our pastor preached at the funeral. The man had a heart for the lost and wanted an altar call at his funeral. The message our pastor preached was simple but important, then four people got saved at that funeral.
Christianity is not dying. Christianity is SHIFTING. People are beginning to wake up to how truly ALIVE they are in Christ and see that without Him everything leads to death.
This is something that takes time. Some churches are not seeing it yet and others are dying in the wilderness thinking it will just show up at their doorstep.
It isn’t about how many churches there are. It is about what is going on in those churches and in our hearts. Jesus drew crowds of people. Do we not think He can still do that today?
If you are part of a church that feels like it is dying, or it is at least not growing and you don’t know why, I suggest that you take a step back and maybe visit a growing church in your area. Don’t worry about growing your church. Just be about your Father’s business and live like Jesus. Do some research and see what is happening outside the walls of your own church. Keep an open mind because you might see some things that surprise you. Do not be afraid. Trust that the Holy Spirit will show you what He is doing and how he wants you to be part of it!
I would love to see what the rest of you think about this. Feel free to share any testimonies you have in relation to this!
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