Is Christianity Dying In America?
There have been a lot of dire statements over the past few days about the future of Christianity in America. Some have declared that America will be judged harshly by God after the recent events. I am not smart enough or holy enough to know how or why God will judge America. I remember in Genesis when God mercifully offered to withdraw judgement if a handful of righteous people could be found in Sodom. Abraham started by pleading for the city if fifty righteous people could be found. He eventually asked for mercy if only ten righteous could be found and the Lord agreed. You know the rest of the story. There were not ten righteous people to be found in that city of debauchery. I am pretty sure there is a far bigger number of sincere followers of Jesus in our country than that. So I don’t know how God is going to proceed. Maybe we needed a wake-up call to get off, as one old pastor colorfully called it, “our blessed assurance”.
Others are proclaiming America to be post-Christian and perhaps even celebrating the trend. I wonder if a paraphrase from Mark Twain might not be in order here. “The death of Christianity has been greatly exaggerated”. To be sure the cultural dominance of Christianity has been deeply wounded. That did not happen in the last month. That has been slipping away for years. But that may not be such a bad thing. Christianity always seems to be more effective when playing as an underdog.
My friend Ed Underwood put our current cultural status in wise perspective in his excellent blog.
First Century Christians didn’t think in terms of getting their way in the courts and power centers of the Empire. They thought in terms of survival for another day to serve Jesus in a broken world. As house churches erupted in an affluent but cruel and decadent empire society turned on them with murderous rage. When the message of forgiveness transformed their lives the gospel awakened a radical sense of cultural compassion. Unwilling to participate in unjust power structures and cultic worship of the emperor, believers stood alone and without political shelter. Peter and Paul were martyred under Nero (54-68) and John exiled under Domitian (81-98). To claim the name of Christ in those simple times was to invite vicious, unrelenting persecution.
Nevertheless, they gathered in the name of Jesus and worshiped him by living lives that portrayed the Savior’s message of forgiveness, love, and justice.
And that ragamuffin group of people changed the world by loving and serving selflessly and fearlessly. The early church had no chance to “win” the culture war. Instead they built a community of believers that infiltrated the culture.
To be completely honest I am concerned about our country and it goes way beyond the most current news. But I am not worried about the church and God’s plan. Both will prevail. God said these words to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew.
“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)
So I feel pretty confident that the media, the government and the culture will not prevent God from accomplishing His purpose. I have recently been meditating on a verse from Psalm 16.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16:1-2, ESV)
I love the fresh take on this passage in The Message.
Keep me safe, O God,
I’ve run for dear life to you.
I say to God, “Be my Lord!”
Without you, nothing makes sense.
That is my meditation for this week.
Be my Lord for without You nothing makes sense.
Nothing has changed in the Sovereignty and Holiness of God in the past month. Nothing. So I am not afraid. If fact, I am excited to see what God will do now that many of us have shifted our focus back to where it should have been all along. On a God who is loving, holy and sovereign and still very much in the business of accomplishing His eternal plan.
Dave Burchett is the author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.