There has been a lot of hype over a recent survey that was conducted on religious affiliation in our country. The study showed that the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christian is at the lowest it has ever been. Percentages have dropped from 78% of the population to 71%. The biggest decline was in the age group of 18-33 year olds. Now, only about half of that age group identify themselves as Christian. Conversely, the share of Americans who say they have no religious belief increased sharply. What do these numbers mean? Should we panic? Abandon our Biblical foundation? Uproot the status quo? Well, I’d like to give some reasons why these numbers are definitely bad news, but also why these numbers can actually be good news too.
First, the bad news. It is no secret that atheism and agnosticism are becoming the latest ‘fad’ in our country. I think Christians are too scared to try and evangelize these people because the secularists are touted as the “brightest, smartest, and clearest thinkers.” The reality is simple: we as Christians are not evangelizing, and part of the reason why is that we are intimidated. The church will not grow if Christians do not evangelize, it’s as simple as that.
Also, this is bad news because it shows us that we are not reaching our younger generation. I know young people can be loud, they can do things differently, and they also have different likes/dislikes. But, if we don’t face the facts, Christianity in this country will literally die off. As the older generation passes on, the younger generation is not being reached to replace them.
Now, I would like to move on to the good news, and I really think there is good news in this report. The first piece of good news is that this report reveals ‘cultural Christianity’ is being reduced (and that’s a good thing). When I say ‘cultural Christianity’ I mean people who identify as Christian simply because they live in America. To the world, America is seen as ‘Christian’ and many people who probably have no idea about Christ or have ever gone to church would probably call themselves a Christian simply because they live in America. A Christian, according to the Bible, is someone who has been born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:3), has believed upon Christ as his/her personal Savior, and has been saved from the penalty of their sins. As we clearly identify what a Christian really is, the false idea of what Christianity is goes away. We don’t want people deluding themselves into thinking they are a Christian simply because they checked a box on a survey.
Another reason this study presents some good news is that it proves that the Bible is true! Let me explain. The Bible predicts that as the last days approach, and the return of Christ draws near, people will turn away from the faith in greater numbers (Rom 1:18-32; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 2 Pet 3:3-7). So, as this study seems bad for Christianity, it actually shows that the Bible’s predictions of people’s actions are coming true! I read the literature of atheists who rejoice in the findings of the study and exclaim “it’s about time!” And, little do they know, their own philosophical mindset’s growth is actually proof against them as it really shows the Bible is getting it right and the return of Christ is drawing nearer. If you have ever read the book of Revelation and wondered how the world could possibly get so evil, the fast track is the abandonment of God and Christ! This shift in ideology in our nation has begun to pave the road towards the end times.
Now, it should not bring a Christian joy to think of the inevitable judgment that is coming upon this world, but it should give us confidence that the religious trends in our country are actually confirming the Bible we hold so dearly.
In summary I would say a few things. First, don’t stop evangelizing. Ever. Second, let’s not abandon convictions and beliefs for attendance numbers to increase. Third, believe your Bible because it is being fulfilled in front of your very eyes!
Pastor Mark Scialabba