Let’s start with the obvious: Christianity is in decline. Back in the (ambiguous) day, it could easily be assumed that every “civilized” person was a Christian. Now, we’re quite aware that just because someone has electricity and a nice suit does not make them a follower of God.
These days, increasingly popular to have no faith at all, and to laugh at those who do. So, we’re seeing Christian numbers declining. I remember hearing a statistic that only 4% of young people will be professing Christians in the future. For Christians, that’s a scary number, and we panic over the future of our children.
Quite honestly, I think it’s a load of malarky (Christians can’t cuss…)
I know my sphere of observation only extends as far as I can throw a baseball (3 feet), but I’ve been watching Christianity and I see a different trend than the doomsdayers do.
Yeah, Christians are leaving the church in droves. Church attendance is down and less people are claiming to be Christians. But you know what I’m seeing from 95% of those stories? The people who left the church were barely Christians to begin with. I know that sounds pretentious (they weren’t really saved), but hear me out on this.
As I said, it used to be popular to be Christian. In fact, there was pressure to be. Now, the pressure is going the other way. Being a Christian isn’t “cool” anymore, hasn’t been for a while. But thanks to the internet, people are more vocal about their beliefs, or lack thereof.
So think about all the “marginal” Christians. The ones who go to church to keep up appearances. They check the “Christian” box on the census, but faith stops there. To them, God exists in a building, and when they leave that building, they can do what they want. Now, they’re beginning to realize they don’t have to check the “Christian” box. And frankly, they don’t want to. So…why should they?
Now imagine this on a large scale. There’s no “expectation” to be a Christian. And once that expectation is removed, a lot of people leave. Why? There was never really a relationship with God. They just felt they should be a Christian.
Now they don’t. And that’s okay.
Sure, there are true blue Christians who are giving up their faith, but the majority of the stories I’m hearing and tell me that the only thing we’re losing is dross. And you know what? That’s Biblical!
Isaiah 48:10 talks about God refining his people in the furnace like gold. Similar allusions are made in Proverbs and Psalms. The image is that when gold goes into the furnace, everything that is not gold burns away. All that remains is pure gold.
Call it God, the world, Satan, whatever you believe, but there’s a furnace going on in Christianity. And the dross is falling off like curtains and burning into ashes. The Christians who had a very loose faith are leaving the church and many of them aren’t sorry. This test is proving their merit.
But look at what’s left.
This is the flip side of the coin that statistics can’t really show: the Christians who remain are stronger than ever. Those who are enduring the ridicule of the world are hardening their faith. They’re seeking God radically, and it’s because they want to. These are the ones who choose God and stand by Him. There’s no pretense about it; they’re in it to win it. The furnace isn’t burning them away; it’s refining them like gold.
So while many Christians are leaving, what we have left is a powerful remnant. Like the Israelites who were raked across the coals by war and famine for their idolatry, the remnant who returned to Israel were cured of it. When Jesus came around, they may have been arrogant and legalistic, but they had only one god.
God isn’t into fakers. The Bible says in countless places that God looks at the hearts, not the actions or the pretenses, but the core of everything. God wants us to be in 100% or out 100%. Revelation 3:15-16 says that God would rather we were cold or hot than lukewarm. God prefers evil to hypocrites and half-hearters.
That’s why this “decline of Christianity” doesn’t bug me. What I see is lines being drawn. Those who love God are on one side, those who don’t, on the other side. The gray middle is disappearing, and quite frankly, good riddance to it. Like God, I would rather have people “choose for themselves whom they will serve” (Joshua 24:15) than pussyfoot around the middle, not really committing to anybody.
The dark is getting darker, but the light is getting brighter. This is the path of honesty and truth. It’s harder to face than the gray dimness, but Jesus never said it would be easy.
Lighten up. Or darken up. Just pick one.
What do you think? Have you seen similar trends?