I’ve read a few nervous posts about a recent report that stated that the number of Christians in the United States was declining. My life as a Christian brings me a great deal of meaning and peace. So, while I want others to have the same peace that I enjoy, I’m not panicked about the declining numbers in a great deal of churches in the U.S., and you don’t have to be either. Here’s why:
Numbers Aren’t Always Honest
There was a time when being a Christian was a popular thing to be. Or, maybe the other options were very unpopular. Whatever the case, in the past it was easier to declare yourself a Christian than it was to align with something else. There were also advantages with throwing in with the Christian camp, whether you were or not. Your neighbors may have trusted you more, and it wasn’t like there was a Buddhist temple on the corner as another alternative. Also, it’s easy to say you are a Christian whether you are really committed to it or not, sort of like being a Democrat or a Miami Dolphins fan. We live in a generation where religious options are limitless and “declaring” yourself a Christian isn’t that advantageous anymore. In fact, it might gain you a few strange looks in certain places. I believe a big part of the numbers that are shrinking are people who weren’t necessarily Christian, but just didn’t have another box they wanted to check. Losing folks who were never really Christians to begin with isn’t a devastating loss, just an honest clarification.
Our Desire For A Majority Hasn’t Always Been Healthy
Nowhere in the Bible does it encourage the spread of Christianity so as to create a political majority and thereby effect change. That was never the plan. The letters written by the early church shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection offer a different approach. Those writers described a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ that resulted in a community of likeminded people committed to service and truth. Change wasn't going to come as a new set of rules for everyone in the nation to follow. Better rules do not necessarily create better people. That sort of outside-in approach in which obedience is demanded only creates silent compliance or angry defiance. Early Christians were changed by an internal commitment that led to external expression. Those that followed Jesus, cared for the poor, and were eager to offer mercy and hope. That sort of life often leads to inspiration. The best bet for the church of today is to stop obsessing over numbers and start focusing on caring for the people in our communities. Love wins when arguments fail, and that will never stop being true, regardless of the numbers.
Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo
Also, I am a Miami Dolphins fan, I'm committed, and it's pretty awful.