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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Will the real believers please stand up, please stand up . . .

The USA Today has recently reported that "the percentage of people who call themselves some type of Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation". The latest American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reflects dramatics shifts in America's religious landscape in the last 18 years. In fact, the only religious group that made significant gains in the last 18 years was (ironically) those who answered "no religion", up from 8% to 15%.

However, I am not panicking yet. My suspicion is that it is largely due to the growing popularity and mainstream acceptability of atheism. It is no longer expected of every American to claim the religion of their country (how long has it been since this was really a Christian nation anyway?). Religion has become so personalized, it is no longer taboo to have no religion or even no thoughts at all on spiritual things. Many people who a couple decades ago would have answered with their parents' religion (even if they haven't been to church since they were a kid) now feel more comfortable in answering honestly (atheist, agnostic, no religion, don't know).

My point is this: the drop in numbers in the Christian denominations and rise in "no religion" numbers may be largely due to a thinning in numbers of the nominal Christians (Christians in name only, not in practice). Those who called themselves Christian only because of their parents, or their country, or a childhood baptism, or a yearly visit to church on Easter or Christmas are finally comfortable confessing the true state of their beliefs. This is actually an improvement since, in my experience, nothing has been harder to overcome in my witness than the nominal Christians who live like the world.

While the numbers of Christians may be declining in the polls, my hope is that the remaining numbers reflect more accurately those who are sincere in faith and practicing in belief. Much like the Christians of Asia and South America, when Christianity is not the expected social norm (or even an unwelcome element), nominal Christianity seems to be weeded out and passionate faith seems to thrive. As a result, this may help in our evangelistic efforts if those claiming Christianity are more Christ-like and those rejecting Christianity are more honest about it.

Is Christianity really losing ground, or are the poll numbers finally beginning to reflect what has been going on in American hearts for generations? It seems to me that the people who have been living their entire lives like atheists finally feel comfortable enough in our current social climate to own up to it.

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." - 1 John 2:19


Anonymous said...

Well here is what I would like to know about the survey in question (American Religious Identification Survey). Was the survey taken anonymously? Or were the people taking the survey attaching their vital statistics i.e. name, age, etc.? It's relevant for the following reasons. 1. If it was taken anonymously then of course they were comfortable to answer the survey freely. 2. If their personal information was attached to the survey then you just hit one out of the park with your theory.

Scott McKay said...

Someone sent me this short story in an email literally an hour before reading your latest blog entry and I thought WOW what great timing. So I'd like to share it with you.

A Real Christian?

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a
church in Houston, Texas .Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his
home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the
driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.' Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway,the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God' and keep quiet.
When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town?''Yes' he replied. Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday. When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the
nearest light pole, held on, and said, Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter. Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard -- and remember -- You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself 'Christian.'Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.Watch your habits; they become character.Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.