I know what the statistics say about the future of the evangelical American church.
Our buildings are bigger, our lights are brighter, our programs are sleeker, our preachers are teaching, our pastors are shepherding and yet people are leaving out of the church in droves–especially my age (almost 35) and younger.
- Some are leaving for good. God, the Church, religion…it’s just not part of our core anymore.
- Some leave and plant other churches. We’re more entrepreneurial than ever so when we see something, in our opinion, that needs to be improved on, we know how to run a church. We’ve spent enough time within our well-oiled machines that we’ve been groomed to do it ourselves–just better, we think. More or less intimate. More or less community. More or less programs. More or less topical. More or less exegetical. More or less flash. More or less candles.
- Some leave and go to the church down the road. And then to the other church farther down the road. We commit just long enough to wonder why we haven’t found community only to start all over again.
And herein lies a problem: the categories of people I just defined are people who are already inside the church–whether it be a church building or a gathering in a living room or a coffee shop.
We study, we plan, we program, we find scenic, peaceful pictures and slap encouraging Bible verses on them in hip fonts to post across social media. We create devotionals, printouts, and have a board or two on our Pinterest pages for quotes and for Jesus.
Let me say there is nothing inherently wrong with studying, planning, programming or encouraging. I’m guilty of all those things, Pinterest boards included.
However, if we fly out to 30,000 feet and take a look at the landscape, what do we see?
I think we’ve become a little bit gluttonous in regard to our faith.
At first, that statement sounds pretty innocuous. We’re to learn scripture, memorize it, encourage each other, and be faithful with the time and resources we’ve been given, right?
At what point are we spilling out to others–to those who haven’t heard the truth and the power and the saving grace of the Gospel of the cross?
Having grown up in the church, worked in the church, served in the church, and now, being married to a pastor, I hear all the time how, with each generation, society is becoming more and more post-Christian. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Just look at what happened in Europe!”…
I’m a logical person. I love research and I love statistics. I geek out over spreadsheets and trends. Quantifying and qualifying things are one of my favorite hobbies.
Yet, in spite of all the science and stats, I really don’t believe that the American church is going to hell in a hand basket, so to speak.
I believe in the power of prayer.
I believe God desires a true reviving of His church all over the world, including America.
I believe truth always wins, even in an age where truth has been redefined and recategorized as relative and subjective and personal.
I believe that the children and students of today are hungry for truth. I see it every week as they ask good and thoughtful questions about the Scripture they read. I see their struggle, and it’s a good struggle.
I believe the power of Christ that is in one person who’s faithful to worshipping, obeying, and joyfully sharing the saving grace of Christ is more powerful than 10,000 people who attend a church out of routine or tradition.
And lastly, I believe there are enough people who believe like me–quietly hoping, seeking, praying, pleading, trusting and living out the Gospel that the numbers and statistics don’t matter.
We will not lose to the self-fulfilling prophecy that the church in America is dying.
Yes, the future of the church looks grim at times.
But we understand it’s not that we need to (or can) fix what’s broken.
We need to pray our faces off and be obedient so that what has been broken in the church can be made whole, made new, and made alive again.
The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.
It’s time for us to take that power and let Him raise the dead through us.