You’ve probably noticed recent reports which state that Christianity is in decline in the U.S. Various articles note that the percentage of “Nones” (those claiming no religious affiliation) in the U.S. is increasing, Protestant denominations are shrinking, the percentage of millennials who are churchgoers is far lower than that of their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors, and our society is becoming more secular by the day. To be sure, these trends are troubling and real. However, history teaches us that in times of crisis and cultural upheaval, great opportunities also emerge.
What often goes unreported is that there are 72 churches in America that average over 10,000 people in attendance every weekend and 1600 churches with over 2,000. It’s true that thousands of churches close their doors every year but thousands of new ones are planted annually and thousands are thriving. Moreover, Thom Rainer points out that many non-Christians really are interested in engaging with and learning from Christ-followers.
The fact is, people are still broken, hurting, and in every sense of the word, lost. They still long to know who they really are, why they’re here, and whether anyone cares. The question is not whether the opportunity to change the culture for the better by changing individual hearts with the message of Jesus is disappearing. The question is whether or not our churches will become increasingly self-absorbed or choose to be mission-obsessed. It comes down to whether our hearts grow cold and numb to the unchurched or if we’re “willing to do anything short of sin” (as Craig Groeschel says) to love and reach people far from God.
Jennifer Martinez is one of the most spiritually sensitive people I know. She is pictured above along with the tattoo she recently got on her left arm. Her decision to get it was inspired by Jesus’ teaching in Luke 15. In it, he said the following: “I can guarantee that there will be more happiness in heaven over one person who turns to God and changes the way he thinks and acts than over ninety-nine people who already have turned to God and have his approval.” If leaving the ninety-nine in pursuit of the one becomes our heartbeat, no trend will keep Jesus’ church from making an eternal impact in this generation. What was true in Jesus’ day is still true today. 1>99.