What Has Happened to America?
George Barna has recently released survey results that confirms what most active Christians have become aware of based on their own personal experience. In surveying Americans and analyzing the results over the last 20 years (from 1991 – 2011), he finds that Bible reading is down from 45% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. On top of that, he found that:
- Church volunteerism has dropped from 27% to 19%,
- Adult Sunday school attendance is down from 23% to 15%
- Adult church attendance is down from 49% to 40%
- The number of unchurched has jumped from 24% to 50%,
- The number of people who believe that God is “the all knowing, all powerful, and perfect Creator who still rules the world today has gone from 74% to 67%, and
- The number of people who believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches has dropped from 46% to 38%.
So, why has this happened? What has turned America from a Christian nation to a post-Christian nation? What has happened to us?
Simply put, America’s worldview foundation has shifted. Of course, America has never been 100% Christian. There have always been pockets of people who have belonged to other religious groups. There have also always been large numbers of people who, even thought they culturally identify themselves as Christians, have never invited Christ into their lives. But, until our modern times, American values and ways have been Christian values and ways.
This is simply not the case any more. Beginning in the 1800s and increasing throughout the 1900s, Naturalistic belief slowly, then more rapidly, gained prominence. It did this by infiltrating our educational institutions, our news media, our entertainment industry and our political system. And it was ultimately so successful that today it dominates all of these. This Naturalistic belief is not merely a set of intellectual beliefs, but literally shapes the environment that we live in based on an entirely different set of values. It doesn’t acknowledge the existence of God, and thus the moral beliefs of Christianity are not accepted. This is why we see such depravity in the entertainment industry, disdain for God in our educational institutions, put downs of the Christian faith in the news media and relativism of every sort expressed in our political institutions. This is now the world we live in.
What is the Cure?
So, what is a Christian to do? Now that we are outnumbered in virtually all of pop culture and outmaneuvered in other areas of life, what is the solution?
While there are certain difficulties that go with living life as a minority, we are not in a hopeless situation. First of all, we know the end of the story. Even though we have to endure difficulty now, God wins in the end. We have that assurance.
We also know that we are not alone in what we are experiencing. This is not a new phenomenon. There are many places around the world, and there have been many times in history, when Christians have been in this situation or worse. God has given us our marching orders. And in our case, we still have the possibility of exerting a lot of influence in our society if we will be faithful. So, just what does that involve?
1. Do Our Due Diligence
Doing our due diligence means that we must seriously buckle down and master the basics of our faith. A solid Christian education is not something just for professional Christian leadership. The special training Christian leaders need is knowledge in how to most effectively equip the rest of the body of Christ for ministry not simply knowledge in how to do all of the ministry.
If we truly believe the Bible when it says that all believers are kings and priests, then we must train ourselves to be effective in that calling. Every believer is called into full-time Christian ministry. There are some who are called into church leadership and those become pastors and other church leaders. But this does not take away from, or minimize, the calling of believers who work in other vocations. There is a distinction that must be made between our calling and our profession they are not the same. We are called to be faithful witnesses through actively working in our profession.
Every Christian needs to become proficient in Bible, theology, and the basic Christian skills (prayer, Bible study, worship, meditation). To pull that off requires a lifelong commitment to study and training.
2. Honestly and Actively Live out Our Faith
While knowledge is the first step (we can’t act without knowledge), it is only a beginning. Our attitude about our faith is also critical. It is possible to have all of the right knowledge and it not lead to a vital relationship with God. There are many people who have advanced degrees in Bible but are far away from him. Knowledge by itself is impersonal.
But a relationship with God is personal. We must learn how to walk with him, communicate with him and express our love and devotion to him. There is a profound difference in knowing about someone and actually knowing them.
3. Share the Truth of the Gospel
The third and final part of the cure is to express our faith. We can’t do this effectively without doing our due diligence in gaining the necessary knowledge and having a personal connection with God. But it is possible to have the first two and not be faithful in this last part. Christ has literally called and commissioned believers to share our faith with those who don’t know him. Mankind’s very reason for existence is for relationship with God. And he has called us to partner with him to bring others into this relationship.
Living in the Trends
I suspect that the biggest problem Christians have in living out the Christian life in a hostile world is not that we don’t know what to do. The Bible is clear, and even our consciences affirm what we ought to be doing. The problem is that we don’t put ourselves in a position to actually accomplish what we know we ought. We need to do our due diligence, live out what we know and share Christ with those who don’t know him.
America is trending in a wrong direction. Are we serious about wanting it to be different? We will never turn things around until a large number of Christians begin to take seriously the call and commission of God and take the steps to implement the necessary elements in our lives.
2011 Freddy Davis