Wake Up Church! We Have a Problem!

Wake Up Church! We Have a Problem! May 12, 2015

Modern polling has confirmed what Christians have suspected for a long time: Christianity is losing ground in America. USA Today this morning came out with an article titled “Christians drop, ‘nones’ soar in new religious portrait,” describing the shift many Americans are making by changing their religious identity from “Christian” to “none.”

5.12.15

 

Pulling from the Pew Research Center’s interviews of 35,000 people in 2014, the numbers speak for themselves. All brands of Christianity are down (Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelicals to a smaller degree). The only brand maintaining their market share is historically black churches. Over the past seven years, when the survey was conducted before, those who self-identified as atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular jumped by 6.7% (the largest increase in religious affiliation) to a whopping 22.9% of the country (or 73 million people). Non-Christian faiths also increased. The only major religion to decline in America was Christianity.

In the first few centuries of the Christian faith, Christianity had nothing: no buildings, no seminaries, no conferences, no worship CDs, no Christian radio, and yet they flourished, exploding in growth and taking their world by storm. Today we have everything we could want: trained professionals, music, movies and an entire sub-culture that cater to us, and yet we’re losing ground. We own more property, have more buildings, and spend more cash on Christian missions than any other generation, and yet we’re losing ground.

Whatever the early church had, we’ve lost. In other parts of the world Christianity is still gaining ground, but in America it’s losing ground. Why? What have we gotten away from? What are we missing? Where have we gone off track? What caused 22 million people to walk away from the Christian faith in the past seven years?

To be fair, the bulk of the departures have come from the mainline protestant denominations. For evangelicals the bleeding has been less severe (we lost 0.9% in market share), but it’s still a problem. We’re not growing.

Why does the most powerful message in the world (the gospel) have no power in America? Is sin too entrenched here? Has money and comfort and leisure corrupted the hearts of too many? Or has the church gotten off track? Have we diluted the power of the gospel in search of other things (like money, influence, comfort, basically everything the world goes after, just with Christian titles written in)?

I honestly don’t know what the answers are, but we need to find them and fast. 22 million people walked away from the Christian faith in the past seven years (the combined populations of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee). What’s the answer?

QUESTION: Why are people walking away from Christianity?


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  • Bill Hamp10n

    Lifestyle…too “busy” to attend church. Sad isn’t it.

    Another is preachers that love to hear themselves talk…..TOO LONG !!!

    Bob Jones II once said, “any preacher that preaches for more than twenty minutes loves to hear themselves preach…” Amen !!! brother Bob…. RIP

    • joshdaffern

      Absolutely. The busyness of life and the overwhelming options of things to do on the weekends has been a been pull away from church.

  • Paul Morrison

    “I have not lost one you gave Me, Father.” – Jesus Christ

    If that statement is true, then the answer is that there are millions of people leaving American Churches that aren’t actually Christians. How many more like them are in the churches now? The American church culture has everything it wants, it just forgot Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the only thing it needs. Having Christian radio and movies are great, but what does it matter when nobody is reading the bible and getting closer to God. We go to Him when it’s convenient for us. We pick our churches by what suits us, not by where we can make a difference or where God wants us to be. But at the rate we’re going, if something doesn’t change soon, Christianity will become illegal in America, because it is so full of ‘hate.’ Then I guess we will see who is really real about Jesus Christ.

    • joshdaffern

      Great words! Many see the decline not as people abandoning the faith but people who were never truly Christians in the first place making their true loyalties known. If that’s the case, then it’s not a decline so much as a ‘right-sizing.’

  • David Miles

    To give a summarized reason, it’s because the church has lost sight of what her role and function is supposed to be. For many Christians who are there to glorify God, it’s an experience of spiritual starvation, a lack of nourishment. The theatrics do nothing to feed the spirit. The shallow relationships aren’t of any appeal and no none seems to be noticing how superficial so many of them are, even when someone genuinely loves them. And that certainly ties into what Paul Morrison said.

    I’ve heard the cries from the hearts of those deeply desiring to follow Christ and their struggles with church. It’s undeniable, we have to be a part of a church body, yet it’s one of the most difficult engagements we can find ourselves in.

    And when we read the book of Acts (as you referred to regarding the early church), there’s definitely something missing, something we long for but cannot find. And in our struggles in our journey, who can we turn to for serious spiritual advice, for guidance and can confide in? As I’ve said elsewhere, being a Christian that actually strives to follow Christ can be one of the loneliest walks in life and it aught to not be.

    I can think of a few ideas, but whatever the answer is, it will have to be a drastic re-thinking of what we accept as the norm right now. Maybe a complete re-structuring. But here’s a few ideas.

    1) Listen from the other direction. From what I’ve seen, pastors and church leaders tend to look up the hierarchy for answers, to other church leaders/etc. But what about listening to the layperson, the men and women who aren’t putting on conferences on how to make churches more relative to the lost community? Listen to the struggles they have in trying to follow Christ in the modern day. Few may be able to articulate exactly what troubles them, at it’s root-level, but you will likely hear a common pattern develop and it’s not going to be what we find in “church growth” conferences/etc. I’ll confess a few of my struggles. A) How to be a dad. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and leading my family is very difficult. The books give little help. I have felt as if the church is more concerned with the enemies of God than those whom Christ has redeemed. B) How to be the husband I should be. The sermons certainly convict me on this topic as well, yet they leave me convicted and never offer any structure or examples on how to actually do better. I grew up without a model of what either role should look like and I haven’t found a church yet that even seems to care about these things. Yet the churches are full of men and women, like myself, who feel defeated so many times even though we aught not to. But we’re longing for what I believe would be if churches rethink discipleship and their role/function as a church. Instead of abandoning the church, I continue striving to sound the alarm, to awaken people to what I’m seeing and hearing from others. When I find pastors like you who seem to genuinely be concerned with this issue, I take the time to try and articulate these things in hopes that it will make a difference.

    2) Hold a public forum. When you look at places like the Veritas Forum, you’ll see there isn’t a lack of interest regarding Christianity. When people like Ravi Zacharias speak, the events are very often overflowing with eager listeners as he defends the truth of Christianity. There are many who are hungry for the truth and there’s only one place to find it: Jesus Christ. Yet, churches have become viewed as “worst-than-courtrooms” and a place you will only be judged if you ask such damning questions. A public forum neutralizes the playing field and allows people with very difficult questions of faith to be able to express them without the threat of condemnation. I’ve found very few people who can answer such questions within the church. When I raise questions of “Why?”, as I often do, I get replies like “I don’t know” and there’s never any effort to find an answer. Yet many professing Atheists have very thoughtful answers and aren’t “down with Christianity!” in their thinking. They cannot find answers to the difficult questions and the critique of Christians in general isn’t far off considering the responses they often get.

    The public forum will also help Christians think deeper of their own faith. I am speaking of Apologetics, but open to both Christians and non-Christians alike. It might amaze pastors to see the questions people within their own congregations are grappling with, yet afraid to ask.

    I am willing to bet if a public forum was held here in Columbus and the topic was something like “Why pain and suffering Jesus?” or “Is Christianity true?”, you’ll have an astonishingly large turnout. People are curious and some are searching, but the “are you a good person…” evangelism method isn’t working nor answering their deeper questions.

    • joshdaffern

      Great thoughts (as always) David! Too many churches have turned religious expectation into nothing more than filling a pew for one hour a week. Churches may try to recreate the biblical community we see in the book of Acts, but I don’t think we’re even getting close.

      Some type of forum or environment where people can talk, discuss and express doubts without fear of condemnation would be very helpful. I agree that there is (and will always be) a hunger for spirituality. For most people they’re simply looking for a safe space to explore questions and answer and discover for themselves whether the gospel is true or not.