Is the Church in America Really Dying?
By: Joe McKeever
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18).
Few things fire me up more than someone saying, “The church in America is dying.” I’m completely convinced that is entirely wrong and completely asinine. It’s an insult to the Lord Jesus Christ about His Church, slander against the thousands upon thousands of faithful congregations hard at work, desperately trying to get it right, and is completely at odds with the real evidence.
In the midst of such a discussion, someone pointed out that it may well be true that nominal church membership in America has declined. And that membership numbers of mainstream churches are dwindling. Even if we concede this, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not like there aren’t ten thousand churches in America that are thriving–and thriving in the best sense of the word.
“Well, the numbers indicate…” Anyone who knows the first thing about Scripture surely knows the Lord never put a prize on huge numbers.
To make a case for that, the church of pre-Constantine days, persecuted and driven underground, was stronger and more vibrant than it became once the Emperor legalized Christianity and when pomp and pageantry became the order of the day. The larger numbers and overflowing coffers were accompanied by a lessening of the persecution God’s people had lived under, but church historians have long noted that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not fare well when politicians take ownership. As has been said, when we mix religion and politics, we get politics.
Throughout the centuries, at any given time some churches will be dead and others on life support. Nothing new about that. Toward the end of the First Century, the ascended Lord Jesus said of the church at Sardis, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). So, nothing in this piece should be interpreted as denying that some churches have died on the vine. And even if an entire denomination ceases to exist, that is a far cry from saying the Church itself is on the way out.
God’s people–and everyone interested in truth–must be cautious in making such sweeping statements as “the church is dying in America” or even that a particular denomination has called in hospice.
God is at work today, perhaps more so than any time in my life, working in churches and parachurch ministries and God-called ministers.
Be careful that you do not slander the Bride of Christ. When you pronounce a denomination dead or even one church dead, you’d better be on firm footing and know what you’re talking about.
It’s possible the Lord is doing far more than you can see. Just possible.
Editor’s Note: Part of this devotional was taken from Is the Church in America Really Dying? by Joe McKeever. You can read the full blog post here.
Do you love podcasts? In The Bible Never Said That, we unpack some of the most popular "spiritual statements" that have made their way into popular culture and the church, even though they are not theologically sound. Together, we'll hold them up to the Bible to see what God's Word really has to say to us.