The Diminishing Christian Voice
- October 16th, 2012 at 1:47 PM
The airwaves, the internet, and virtually every other means of communication are saturated with news about the quickly approaching presidential election. This election does hold enormous implications for the future. There have perhaps never been more clear distinctions between the philosophies of two presidential candidates than there are this year.
Facebook, Twitter, and email are filled daily with messages from concerned Christians articulating concern about the condition and direction of our country. Personally, I share many of the concerns expressed relative to the moral decay that is happening in virtually every sector of our society. The path that American culture is taking will lead us to even greater challenges than we face today.
With that being said, I would argue that these are simply symptoms of a much deeper problem. The primary problem, I believe, is with the Church, not society.
This past week, Pew Research released survey results that indicated the percentage of the American population made up of professing Protestants had fallen to 48 percent. This is the first time this percentage had fallen below 50 percent. It appears from their survey results that the group experiencing the most significant increase is the “nones.” This group represents 20 percent of our population and is comprised of residents who have no religious affiliation or are professing atheists. This report provides many insights, but perhaps none more stark than the reality that Protestant denominations are not embracing the Great Commission.
Let’s narrow this conversation to Southern Baptists. At the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention, a final report from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was presented. This report should have served as a wakeup call for all Southern Baptists because it articulated with great clarity how we have lost our evangelistic fervor. Baptisms and church memberships have been in decline for several years. One of the most salient points of concern was that baptisms in 2008 for the entire Southern Baptist Convention were 33,000 fewer than in 1950 even though the convention added more than 17,000 churches. What a sobering statistic.
There are many more studies and statistics that can verify the accuracy of the Pew Research study nationally for Protestants and the GCR Task Force report for Southern Baptists. However, I will avoid listing them to return to the main point of this blog post. Many of the cultural and political trends that are alarming followers of Christ around our country are simply the cumulative effect of decades of a diminishing commitment to sharing and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not know Him. The glorious promise of the Gospel is that Christ transforms the lives of those who come to Him in faith seeking salvation.
Martin Luther King Jr. provides a powerful statement of the need for salvation. He said the following at the Southern Leadership Conference in August of 1967.
And if you will let me be a preacher just a little bit: One day, one night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn’t get bogged down on the kind of isolated approach of what you shouldn’t do. Jesus didn’t say, “Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying.” He didn’t say, “Nicodemus, now you must not commit adultery.” He didn’t say, “Now Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that.” He didn’t say, “Nicodemus, you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively.” He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic: that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down on one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, “Nicodemus, you must be born again.” In other words, “Your whole structure must be changed.”
Dr. King was clearly focusing his comments to address one aspect of culture. He realized changing culture required a changed life through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ message to Nicodemus is the message that the Church who professes to follow Jesus must recommit to proclaiming. There is perhaps not a more urgent call for the Church, even during this election time.
Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer presented findings of a significant research study in their book, The Millennials. This study was designed to gain understanding about America’s most populous generation known as Millennials who were born between 1980-2000. Consider this quote:
The shocking reality for us is that only 13 percent of the Millennials considered any type of spirituality important in their lives. We feared that this generation might be anti-Christian. In some ways, the responses were worse than our fears. At least someone who opposes Christianity has our beliefs on his or her radar. Most of the Millennials don’t think about religious matters at all.
What a sobering and heartbreaking reality. The implications of these statistical realities on the future of America are far greater than even the current presidential election. What impact will these 77.9 million Millennials have on shaping our culture if the Church does not pierce the darkness of this generation and the generations that follow with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
George Gallup, among others, reports findings which indicate that North America is the only continent where Christianity is in decline. The Church is not losing her voice in culture. The Church, at large, is simply choosing to not share the most important, life-transforming, and relevant Message that Christ has given her the responsibility to share. The result is an increasingly secular world that is unconcerned about the Church and uninterested in spiritual matters. The challenges we face will only increase if the Church does not become burdened for the lost and in love share the message of Christ.
While I see the same cultural trends that many other Christians see and I share their concerns about the impact these trends could have on our future, I must also own part of the responsibility. The Church at large is quick to speak loudly in opposition to losses of religious freedom. I am grateful we do. However, the Church remains relatively silent when presented opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live out openly the impacts of the Gospel on our own lives. I fear that our bashfulness with the Gospel has set the stage for many, if not most, of the cultural challenges that concern us today.
I certainly believe the Church should be vocal in the conversations taking place in our culture. Yes we should vote. Yes we should articulate thoughtful responses to the moral decay and political agendas that surround us. BUT, we must also repent of our failure to be burdened for the lostness that surrounds us. We must repent of not faithfully sharing the Gospel in our communities that many might be “born again.”
On the other side of repentance, the Church should recommit herself to fervently sharing the Message of Jesus Christ. He is the only Hope for the world. Then, our communities might recognize that we are more than just a voice of protest. They will see the Church, of which Jesus Christ is the Head, provide a Holy Spirit-empowered Gospel witness that changes lives and thereby shapes cultures!
I pray the Church will once again find her Gospel voice.
About This Blog
The purpose of the sharing Life blog is to provide opportunities to analyze cultural issues through the lens of biblical truth. Posts are written by Senior Pastor Charles A. Fowler as well as other members of the GBC staff. Our worship guides are also offered as a daily tool for guiding your family in worship at home.
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