Around the world, churches are shrinking. Across the spectrum of all churches that make a claim to Christianity, there are fewer congregations of worshipers and fewer worshipers within those congregations. Moreover, the worshipers that remain are often from older generations, which indicates that there will be even fewer worshipers in the future. This trend encompasses all denominations, and the churches of Christ are not immune.
The nations of Europe are farther down the path of this trend than the United States is, and some have even said that Europe has entered a post-Christian era. England’s decline into spiritual apathy is indicative of the whole continent. An English Church Census from 2005 found that only 6.3% of the English population regularly attended church services. Since 1969, 1,500 churches in England have disbanded, many of which were hundreds of years old. This has resulted in so many empty church buildings that the government has established an agency just to oversee the use and preservation of them. This is quite a fall for a nation and a continent that were once characterized by their devotion to religion, whether it was Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, or true and pure Christianity. Now it is mostly a wasteland of distinctly un-Christian people and a rapidly increasing population of Muslims.
We can look to Europe and see what is coming to the United States if this nation continues on this same path of spiritual decline. The younger generations of Americans are already turning away from churches in droves, and the rate is increasing. The Nehemiah Institute, which is an organization that conducts Biblical worldview testing, has found that 85 percent of public school students from professing Christian families in America do not hold a Biblical worldview. In other words, most children are learning from schools to form their beliefs based on man’s wisdom and not God’s word. This should come as no surprise considering that these students are trained as disciples of secular humanism in the schools, where the Bible is banned. Various resources report research that finds about 85 percent of children raised in church-going families leave the churches at age eighteen and never return. At that rate, America is quickly headed toward its own post-Christian era in the likeness of Europe.
Do these things alarm you? They should, for this is not a denominational issue. This is a cultural issue that affects all of us who live in the culture. It is truly a new apostasy in Western civilization that has been unfolding for several generations. After an exceptional age of heightened spirituality and morality that has existed in recent centuries, we are seeing a descent back into the normal state of this sinful and fallen world – utter godlessness, immorality, violence, etc. Much of this decline can be linked directly to the doctrine of Darwinian evolution, which has taught people to reject God, destroy the weak, and indulge pure selfishness in the name of self-preservation.
What shall we do about all of this? First of all, let us not panic but have a Biblical perspective. The kingdom of God will endure forever (Dan. 2:44), and the gates of Hades will never prevail against the Lord’s church (Matt. 16:18). The victory against Satan has already been secured by Christ through His resurrection and the gospel of faith in Him (Rom. 1:16; 1Cor. 15:53-57; Heb. 2:14-15; 1John 2:15-17). With that perspective, let us resolve that we are going to participate in that victory through faithful obedience to the gospel. Heed the words of 1John 5:4-5 – "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Specifically, we must immerse our lives into the true discipleship of Jesus Christ. When Paul warned Timothy of a coming apostasy (2Tim. 3:1-9), he charged Timothy to cling to the inspired Scriptures and preach the word of God "in season and out of season” (2Tim. 3:10-4:5). All professing Christians should have been doing this all along, but many have failed, which has led to the present apostasy en masse. To stop the current trend, Christians must stop playing church and start being the church. We will have to embrace and live by the words of Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We will also have to save our children from the corruption of godless influences and discipline them in God’s truth. They will have to learn that the Bible is true, and world’s wisdom is wrong; that God, Christ, Satan, judgment, heaven, and hell are all real; that the creation account of Genesis really happened, and Darwinian evolution did not; that sin is the original cause of every problem in this world, and that Christ is the solution; and that a life of genuine, faithful obedience to Christ’s gospel is the only way to salvation and eternal life.
Let us be strong, proactive, and diligent to keep our families and our fellow Christians from getting caught up in this apostasy. There may be nothing we can do to stop a post-Christian era from coming to America, but remember that Christians have endured and even thrived through such eras before. Pray that God will strengthen you, your family, and your fellow Christians to persevere whatever may come. Remember that Jesus has said, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
Stacey E. Durham
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