I think I have read no less then 35 different blogs titled:
“The real reason people are leaving the church.”
There is even a rebuttal saying, “Because actually, they’re not.”
Even the famed Matt Walsh jumped on board this sinking ship.
But so many seem to be missing the point. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with their explanations and analysis for the supposed exodus, I do have a problem with the initial premise. You see the question they are answering is not a new question. About 15 years ago,in particular, people were asking the same question.
And the answer was this:
“We need to be more relevant! Hey, we’ll even start a magazine called ‘Relevant’ and that will help!” So the music got flashy, people church-hopped, and the pendulum swung.
Now, the question is being asked again.
But this time the answer is: “We need to be less relevant! Let’s go back to hymns, sacraments, liturgy and stuff and NO flashy music, this will bring them in.” (insert pendulum swinging the other way)
My problem with all this conjecturing is two fold.
First of all, I don’t buy the assertion that ‘Christians” are leaving the church.
Why? Well, because there is really no evidence that this is happening. In fact some would argue that it is not even theologically possible. The evidence presented to prove their point of mass exodus is that the percentage of self-professed Christians has dropped from 78%-70%. But look. No Christian I have talked to has ever given any credence to that unrealistic original statistic.
It’s kind of a joke. A sad joke.
It usually goes like this:
“How are we still killing babies if 80% of the country is following Christ?” Oh, right. Because the statistic is false. People check the “Christian” box like it is a nationality instead of an actual commitment to following Christ.
Secondly, since there is no actual proof true believers are leaving the church, I personally don’t think a decline in numbers is a bad thing.
You see, after 28 years or so of constant growth, my church went through a definite decline when the pastor at the time had one of those “Moral failings.” The weeks following the initial disclosure were filled with many emotions, not the least of which was fear. Driving home from running errands one night, I had a noteworthy moment of anxiety. I thought of my former pastor and feared for his soul. What if he doesn’t truly repent? What if he walks away from the church altogether? What if he is lost forever? Then I had an even greater fear of something much worse. What if he doesn’t walk away from the church, per se, but instead walks away from truth? What if he pulls a Rob Bell, and decides that he “humbly” realizes that he knows more than all of the church fathers before him, and truth is relative and “Love wins” and joins forces with…. Oprah! And what if he, with all his charisma and charm, leads thousands of people away?
It was there at that stop light, that I heard a voice in my spirit say these words:
“It’s still too big.”
What? I thought. My church ? What is too big?
“You want the moral majority, but I have called you to the narrow road.”
My mind immediately went to the story of a scared Gideon as he prepared for battle, when the Lord reduced his army from thousands to hundreds. I realized at that moment that life was different now. Not just in our church, but in our country. And I knew that our church was being prepared for something more. Something greater.
Greater persecution. Greater affliction. Greater obstacles. A greater mission.
And before our church had been hit with tragedy, it was just too big. Possibly a bit of the “mile wide, inch deep” syndrome. Don’t misunderstand. Great ministry happened for years at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Scripture was taught. Disciples were made. Pastors were sent out all over the country and beyond. Lives have been forever changed. However, this depth of faith was not a reality for the entire body. For some people it was entertainment. They were there for the show. And now that the main character was gone, they were leaving too. And that was a healthy decline. But for those that stayed – there has been an awakening. A girding up of sorts. A unity towards the forwarding of the gospel. We have been reminded that we are on a battleship, not a cruise ship! When we look at those “Christian” statistics in America? They aren’t real. They are still too big. So you want to know why the church is or isn’t growing? Here’s the answer that I haven’t heard one person say.
…neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (I Cor. 3:7-HSCB)
We have to look at a couple factors. Are we preaching the word? Yes. Are we mentoring and disciplining? Yes.
Great. But remember, here’s the important part:
Only God gives the growth. So it doesn’t matter if you sing hymns with an organ, or praise songs with a tambourine (our worship leaders nightmare.)
God watches over His word to perform it. He has a story to tell. And He has already warned us in great detail where we are headed. But take heart! This is not a doom and gloom message. This is a Joshua 24 type call to action! Do not despair over numbers. Choose this day whom you will serve. Go and make disciples. This was and is our commission. Be bold and courageous. Do not be afraid. Be prepared to give an answer for your faith. Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us. Keeping our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith!