It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:8-9
On the Decline
Have you read the articles or seen the news? Apparently the Christian church is in decline. Is this something you have sensed as well? I pulled this disturbing blurb from an article in the New York Times written in December, 2012:
“LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Barna Group — have found that a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely…Evangelicals, while still perceived as a majority, have become a shrinking minority in the United States. In the 1980s heyday of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, some estimates accounted evangelicals as a third or even close to half of the population, but research by the Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith recently found that Christians who call themselves evangelicals account for just 7 percent of Americans…The global outlook is more optimistic, as evangelical congregations flourish in places like China, Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa. But while America’s population grows by roughly two million a year, attendance across evangelical churches… has gradually declined, according to surveys of more than 200,000 congregations by the American Church Research Project.”
Should we be shocked by this news?
I’m not shocked and I’ll tell you why: I read my Bible. The Apostle Paul expressly tells us in 1 Timothy 4:1 that people will depart from our ranks and in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 he tells us why they will leave.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
What does the word decline mean anyway? Is it simply a decrease in the numbers of people sitting in the pews or is it something more significant than that? I discovered that the word decline in the ancient Hebrew is ‘satah‘ (eerily close to satan, isn’t it), and it’s defined as, ‘to turn or go aside.’
There is no doubt that this occurring in the American church, just as our brother Paul had prophesied, but don’t be alarmed, for the reality is that those who remain are growing stronger and bolder in their faith. So while there may be less bricks in the walls, the Christ-centered foundation is alive and vibrant.
The oppressed and/or persecuted church is a strong church. We see proof of this around the globe. Even the New York Times article admits that ‘The global outlook is more optimistic, as evangelical congregations flourish in places like China, Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa.’ These are places of great oppression and persecution! Even Bible history bears witness to this truth. Look how the church grew when Peter and John were persecuted.
Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4
And remember when scandal hit the early church; when Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck down by the Lord for being deceitful? Those on the peripheries fell away, but the true followers were strengthened.
So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. Acts 5:11-14
Even current events demonstrate the truth. Have you read how American pastor, Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for his faith in one of the worst prisons in the world [in Iran] has led more than 30 Muslims to Christ Jesus while incarcerated?
Christ’s church is getting stronger!
Should we pray for persecution?
Um, no. We should not.
Rest assured this kind of persecution and oppression is coming to America, and it’s coming swiftly. As a result, the pews will empty as the ‘nominals’ succumb to their fears and seek comfort in those places where the doctrine is not sound, where they can focus on their latent desires, and where they can heap up teachers who tickle their ears, while at the same time fearfully dodging secular and governmental persecution. However, during this same period of time, the church will thrive in the revival of His saints and will become both vigorous and tenacious. This is the inspiring part of the equation — the numbers may fade but the body will flourish!
In the meantime
Be persistent in your prayers for the lost, praying for both repentance and revival. And pray for yourself that you’ll grow in the hope and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, submitted and obedient to His will in all things.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2
These articles may or may not be related:
- Please Pray for Pastor Saeed! (kristiann1.com)
- Billy Graham: Now is time for ‘fresh awakening’ (wnd.com)
- Religious institutions must be agents of development (modernghana.com)
- Are You a Practical Heretic? (cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com)
- Secession or Being Faithful – is this the real choice facing C of S Evangelicals? (theweeflea.wordpress.com)
- Preaching Gospel as Gospel: How Unconditional is Unconditional? (afkimel.wordpress.com)
- To The Church In Kenya (breadforthebride.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis Generates Controversy (northcathedral.wordpress.com)
- Billy Graham: Now is time for ‘fresh awakening’ (mobile.wnd.com)
- Engage the South #engage13 (pastoramc.wordpress.com)
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