Perhaps you saw the headlines taken from a recent Gallup poll. One version…
Majority of Americans don’t belong to a place of worship in historic decline, poll finds
One story said that for the first time since Gallup has done surveying on the subject of religious attendance going back to the 1930’s, less than 50% of Americans claim membership to either a church, mosque or synagogue.
It’s a downward trend that goes back over 20 years. Something about the 21st century doesn’t seem to like churchgoing.
Decades ago the membership number was around 75%. Now Gallup says it’s down around 47%.
It’s interesting – even though Christianity is the dominant religious group in America by a tremendous margin, the drops apparently are also seen in Judaism and Islam. It’s not just a Christian thing, it’s a religious thing.
Another story is a bit more stark, with the headline…
America Is a Pagan Nation: Now What?
OK let’s stop that one cold. Our nation has hardly gone pagan, and being pagan is a whole different and real religious idea. Let’s all meet up at Stonehenge and see the sun come up on the summer solstice with flowers in our hair as we worship Mother Earth.
No, what’s been warned for many years is coming to fruition – the religion of secularism has become dominant. It’s been happening for years in Europe, once the bastion of the faith. Now it’s infected the U.S.
Secularism – all that churchy stuff is so old fashioned and too judgmental. Science is all we need and there never was a God. I’d rather sleep in on a Sunday morning than waste time in a stuffy building with a bunch of old people, or join in with those evangelical crazies with their waving hands and loud music. Scandals in American Christianity like cheating or thieving ministers or megachurch leaders living in mansions means religion is phony.
Sound harsh? Or right on?
Here’s a vote for right on.
And it’s especially bad with young people. Why go to church when we have social media? Why get together when we really don’t have to? And since my parents really didn’t seem to care much about religion and going to church, why should I?
It’s a damning indictment of our society as a whole. The basic tenets of the Bible, from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament to the wisdom of Jesus, Paul and the Apostles in the New Testament, just don’t seem to resonate anymore?
“Love your neighbor?” Why bother? How does that help ME?
“Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16 NIV
What, are you kidding? Why would I ever do that? Literally or figuratively?
We shouldn’t be surprised when we see the growing chaos happening in America today. Mass shootings. Protesting injustices but then committing injustices like rioting and violence while protesting. The growing wealth gap between the haves and have nots. Wild political populism. Racism in all its forms.
Now some continue to point back to the 1960’s when prayer was “removed” from public schools as a main cause of today’s problems. Or the “separation of church and state” crowd that wants to apply their version of that idea to every part of American life. But those are tiny parts of a much larger problem that stretches back many decades, even centuries.
Society today is going through great convulsions, not only in America but around the world in many places. We continue to refer to “racial problems” as in black and white or someone’s ethnicity.
In truth there is only one race, the HUMAN race of which we ALL are members. Yet we continue to look past that fact time and again. Jesus came to speak to both the Jews and Gentiles, and the Gentiles meant everyone who was not Jewish. The whole world, every corner.
But it appears that more and more people are turning their backs on Him by not going to services, and not only Christian but nearly every religion. And in doing so they also turn their backs on the wisdom of the ages, peaceful rules and adages that have brought us through thousands of years of history.
So should we wonder NOW WHAT like the story mentioned above?
OK, why not? Because the idea that Christianity is just disappearing and no longer relevant simply isn’t true. Call it Fake News or whatever you like. The proof?
In war torn areas of the Middle East, several mainstream news outlets like Newsweek and Reuters have reported an upsurge of interest in Christianity. People in those areas, tired of the strife and death surrounding them, see the teachings of Jesus as their way out, as their salvation. They’ve witnessed the brutality of other extremists and realized that the love of Christ is the answer.
Secularism has no answers here.
In this pandemic year when many places in the U.S. won’t even allow indoor church services in fear of the Virus That Shall Not Be Named, a Roman Catholic priest in Minnesota had a wild idea. Using the technology of today, why not start a podcast where he would just read the Bible every day for the entire year 2021, and add some commentary?
The recorded podcast, called The Bible in a Year, began on January 1. And according to one newspaper story, the NEXT DAY the podcast rose to #1 on the Apple popularity listing. Word apparently spread quickly as a LOT of people connected with the podcast and began listening. And you can find a host of other apps and podcasts with something similar, many of them with “5 star” ratings.
If this is a now a “pagan” or secular era, why do so many people seem to be hungering for the message of hope and deliverance that the Bible provides? Perhaps a growing number of folks want to make their way through those convulsions by hearing the word of God, and some perhaps for the first time.
But it’s not going to church though. Anyone who has attended a church service in recent years, even before the virus showed up, has seen the decline. And the pandemic surely hasn’t helped the situation.
Instead of churches slowly dying across the country, this could be the golden opportunity for rebirth. The congregations who can reach those out there who are hungering for the Word, starving for meaningful fellowship, in every town and region from sea to shining sea, will be the ones who start to see more people sitting in the pews on Sunday mornings or at other times.
And people HAPPY to be there.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20 NIV
While some would think gathering could mean by Facetime or Zoom, both useful tools, we’ve learned at least one thing during this persistent pandemic – people really want to BE TOGETHER.
When families have been able to finally gather together again the happiness has been fantastic, like finding someone long lost. Hugs abound.
The utter delight of going out to eat at a restaurant – “Honey we’re going out to EAT!” Almost like going to visit a big theme park. Who would have predicted that BV (before virus?)
And even meeting for church while outdoors and sitting six feet apart, all for “safety,” has that feeling of “we’re BACK again and doesn’t it feel GREAT!”
Jesus is risen indeed, and WITH us now if we simply acknowledge Him. Christianity isn’t going down the tubes – God is with us and it’s time to GATHER again and sing His praises.
From George Churchgoer