Much of the grumbling I hear in the church has to do with the godless culture in which we live. Should we fear for the church? Is our culture really that godless? Consider…
Politicians of all persuasions feel free to corrupt the truth to their own ends. They routinely break the very laws they’re sworn to uphold; they use their positions of power to lord it over those who disagree with their policies.
As of last January our national debt exceeded $17,265,987,000,000.00—that’s approximately $54,379.00 per person. Can you afford to pay your share? Probably not—the average credit card debt is $15,799. That doesn’t include mortgages, car loans, student loans, etc. As the leaders lead, so the nation follows. (See Romans 13:8)
Biblical morality is no longer the norm. To give one example—for the first time, a Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that premarital sex is morally acceptable. They also consider “living together” to be perfectly fine. What really surprised me was that 57% have no problem with an unmarried couple having a baby. (See Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5.)
While we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians, this moral decline is happening at the same time that the church is growing! A 2011 Barna survey of born-again believers (“born-again” status is determined by a person’s beliefs, not by what they call themselves) find that 41% of Americans are born-again, up 6% in ten years.
How can the church’s influence be weakening when the church is actually growing? For one, nominal Christianity is declining. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans who call themselves Christians fell from 86% in 1990 to 75% in 2009. Most of that change is due to people simply losing interest in religion; it’s no longer relevant to their lives.
It seems that even nominalism has a positive effect on the moral climate in a society. However, there’s a more significant trend at work here.
The same Barna survey mentioned above found that fewer born-again Christians are actively pursuing a life submitted to God (and I quote):
- Attendance at weekend church services has declined … by seven percent since 1991, falling from 66 percent to 59 percent.
- The proportion of born-again adults who read the Bible during the week, not including when they are at a church event, has decreased by nine percent since 1991. The weekly average is now at 62 percent.
- Volunteering at church during the week … has dropped from 41 percent in 1991 to 29 percent today.
Perhaps the church isn’t doing such a good job of being salt and light because we’ve become weak. We have lost our connection to God.
I think we love to complain about how bad things are because it makes us feel better in some convoluted way. We’re suffering for our faith. We deserve sympathy and admiration. But what if that “suffering” is our own fault?
Paul writes in Ephesians,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground….”
When we won’t wear our armor, how can we complain when the enemy defeats us?
There is one flicker of hope in all these statistics. The national is becoming more polarized, not just politically, but also according to our spiritual beliefs. The dark is becoming darker, and in that darkness, the Light of the world will shine brighter.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)