The other day I asked whether Christians were a majority in this country. Few refuted that idea.
About six weeks ago, Newsweek published a story asking if it is the end of Christian America. (Please consider reading the piece). In rebuttal, Mark Driscoll, one of the more polarizing nationally recognized new Church leaders, believes that the decline in numbers is merely the chaff falling away. (Please read the Driscoll comments.)
Are the days we live in pointing to the threshing floor? What are we to believe about the perceived decline in Christian America? And is such a decline inevitable considering that revival burns hot in non-Western countries?
Your thoughts are appreciated!
14 thoughts on “Christians in America: The New Minority?”
Actually I did comment on this in the previous post. I feel slighted now. You don’t stay up late every night anticipating my every comment?!?!?
Anyways, it all depends on who you say is “a christian.”
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm (data in this link is older, too lazy to hunt for more current stuff.)
I did read your comment. Sorry if I did not develop it enough.
Thanks for the link. It’s good. The latest ARIS report from last year bears out even further erosion.
I read Driscoll’s article and the comments. I think he makes a good point that it is actually Christendom in America that is declining. I have read that sudies show that the Christians in Europe, where Christendom died a long time ago, are stronger spiritually, as a whole, than Christians in America. Maybe the decline in the U.S., while Christianity is growing in other parts of the world, is God’s way of showing us that he is not an American god, but is the God of the entire earth.
I definitely disagree with the woman who commented and said that Christianity was stronger because there were more culture warriors out their fighting for things like “Christ in Christmas.”
I think it may be a combination of two factors. I do believe Driscoll’s point is valid. Some of the decline can be attributed to those who were only nominally Christian doing what most nominal Christians eventually do–disappear. I think that there may also, simultaneously, be an actual decline in the number of genuine Christians.
I disagree with Driscoll. In my 46 years of being an evangelical Christian, I’ve never seen it in such a mess and such apostasy. I especially look at the Christian colleges and seminaries and see how postmodernism (i.e. the emergent conversation) is flooding into these once cross-centered institutions. Jesus is being redifined into “Rabbi Jesus” who isnt a Saviour of sin, but simply the liberal Protestant teacher and “social justice saviour.” There are a few Christian colleges and seminaries left untouched. I look at your alma mater and wodner what has happened as I read books by professors who teach there. I don’t even recognize anything smacking of Christianity in them. The ones that are seem to be retaining some semblance of Christianity are mostly hyper-Calvinistic. Those Christians that aren’t in that camp as obsessively, as for example the “Young Calvinists,” will have nowhere to go. Unless there is a miracle to turn this around, I don’t see America as anywhere near a Christian nation, but rather going into the direction of Europe.
Personally, I think we are alive at a very exciting time in Christianity. For there are those areas where the church is coming alive. I do agree with Driscoll’s view of the chaff falling away, however, we must be careful, because if we are too quick to discount all those who have left the church, we ignore the substantial number of people who have become injured or disillusioned at the hands of churches who propogated a message that was anything but the Gospel.
Too many churches have rationalized the decline of numbers by assuring each other of the poor quality of those who are no longer present. That is much easier and more palatable than coming face to face with the bare facts related to the failure of the church to be the responsive arm of Christ’s love. We can talk about the pruning of our ranks, or the falling away of chaff, and rest easy thinking that somehow it is the fault of those who are gone. I liken this thought process (and I hear it from more fellow pastors than I care to think about), to a group of rescuers standing on the shore watching people drown in the swelling flood waters, checking and rechecking thier equipment, while the people drown. And then rationalizing they are better off because had they entered the water and risked their lives, their equipment would have been soiled or lost, and worse case scenario they could have endangered their own lives.
Unless the church begins to take risks again, and is willing to lay aside much of what it clings to in this world, we will continue to see the falling away of Christianity as we have known it — but then again, in many circles what we have known has been ineffectual at best. There are literally hundreds of churches that have not experienced having someone outside the church family come to Christ in decades, and sadly for many of those churches, growth has been seen simply in shuffling disatisfied christians from one church to another.
Sorry for the rant
Even before Jesus ascended into Heaven, His apostles were counting and trying to divide the church. They asked Jesus to stop an evangelist proclaiming the Gospel because he wasn’t part of them. Another time they asked Jesus about removing the chaff from the wheat. Jesus’ response each time to them was essentially – let me be the judge over these matters. You just do what I have commanded of you: love one another and tell people about me.
In many ways, it boosts our pride when we point fingers at others “leaving” the church. We say, “look at us, we must be special.” The church is special, because of Jesus.
Let’s stop worrying about trivial matters. Jesus will sort these things out. Let’s start by building relationships. Let’s let Jesus live through us. Let’s be the Samaritan to the “outcasts and unlovable”. When we do this we are being the Church, and the world will notice. Most importantly – God will be glorified. Jesus will build HIS church. We have the privilege of being part of it, and of being part of His plan in building it.
I think much of the current debate in the MSM about Christianity ‘Dead or Alive’ is driven by the recent elections. It was just a few years ago that the ‘Christian right’ was ‘dominating’ everyone and we were a theocracy as a nation. Since the presidential election, the articles about Christianity’s death have come up. When a Republican is next elected, ‘Christianity’ will magically be thriving again.
I think it would be great if those who went by the name of Christian would stop attempting to use worldly tools (politics, etc) to build up the kingdom and got into more of what commenter John spoke of.
The problem is ( as if I knew) what are we basing our assumptions on?
Statistics? (How were statistics gathered in the past compared to now?)
Goings-on in our own neighborhood, towns?
I said this before, was Christianity “fading” when Promise Keepers was smoking hot?
There is a great deal of ebb and flow of trends. Are we just bored and looking for the next big thing and disappointed because it isn’t here?
Blog rants should be disregarded to some extent or taken with some salt. Even Michael Spenser is starting to backpedal a tad on his list of downfalls. Now the doomed churches have been pared down to the politically inclined.
The original question was “were we a minority”?
Look in your own family and draw your own conclusions.
I m afraid that the real reason behind these campaigns, is to cause division. It is no way done because of genuine concern about the state of christianity.
Not only mainstream do it, but the ( in)famous ‘Barna ‘as well – check him out.
Compare all the false leaders which are appearing – it seems that there s one kind of false prophet for every ‘kind of endtime christians ‘. It is easier to deceive them ( christians ) if you first devide them.
After that, you bring in the ( subconscious) notion, that ‘the smallest part of them, who are Faith-based, are surely extremists ‘ , and voila. This can only be done, when the base of this shifting is presented ( to the masses ) as so-called ” serious sociologial studies about the christian world ” .
Devide and conquer.
About Europe and America –
..I really don t know. What I see around ( in Europe ) is a tottaly blinded christian world, with only a small group trying to put together what is really happening in the world – and how close He is.
I guess it s the same by you folks – but the large number of sound sites and blogs by you ( compared to what we have here ) makes me wish to believe that you still have a lot of soundchristian fellowship…?
– addition –
..the war is against Christianity – NOT in ‘the middle east ‘, now. The latter is merely concocted as attention-deflection- devision of CHRISTIANITY.
..and who has his attention wrongly focused, has no attention for Him – and looses.
besides – Gideon won ( for the good of all his people ! ) Ã¡fter he was forced to loose 4/5 of his original army..
” is such a decline inevitable considering that revival burns hot in non-Western countries?”
I admire your direness. It’s blood curdling sometimes.
Anyhow, regarding “decline”: Dan, I’m going to throw out an idea here that will strike some people as completely outrageous. Lately, I’ve been reading up a little on the history of American xnty, and it became evident to me that Dispensationalism is something that is very, very pervasive, widespread, and influential among evangelical churches in America.
Perhaps there’s a clue here? Maybe, here in America, there is something in how Disp’ist (my abbreviation) doctrine gets applied that is a factor behind the decline?
It’s just a thought, and I’m not trying to rigidly hold to this, but it’s just something that I was musing about.
…Also, about Meacham’s article in Newsweek.
Yes, I read it too. And I thought somebody had taken all the past articles from Time and Newsweek about Xnty over the years and threw them in a blender and whipped up yet another variation of we-have-heard-this-tired-stuff-a-gazillion-times-before.
In other words, I thought it was pretty boring. But it’s funny, just a short time ago it seemed the everybody was fretting about the impending Christianist theocratic takeover of America. Now xnty is on the verge of disappearing.
For some real humor, Dan, go sometime and read the hysterical things that get written in the Daily Kos about xtians. They really take this “theocratic takeover” quite seriously. And sometimes it gets so hysterical that it ends up being unintentionally funny.
Judging by the examples given in the Bible, true believers have always been the minority. The question should be, am I a true believer? Am I a Joshua, or one who gave a bad report? Am I Able, or Cain? Am I one of Gideon’s chosen, or one of those rejected? Am I crossing the Jordan, or did I perish in the desert?
It’s not what the other people are. It’s what I am.
That’s not a self centered view. Because what I am determines what others become. God chose Christians to be His body here on planet Earth. Whether we are obedient or not determines the outcome for billions.
So I don’t think we should be looking at the Church as a “what are they doing?” kind of proposition. It should be a “what am I doing?” proposition.