A member of my church called me the other night. He and his family went to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. While there, he noticed a world-map depicting the number of Christians around the globe. Of course, in some areas, Christianity is non-existent. This is sad but not surprising. What did surprise my Christian friend was the absence of Christianity right here in the United States; particularly on west and northern east coasts. He asked me, “If Christianity isn’t prevalent in these areas, what religion are the people practicing?” My answer: “secularism!”
More and more our nation is becoming more atheistic. This is not to say that people have come to an honest realization that God doesn’t exist. No one can make that case intelligently. But, it is to say that Americans are increasingly not practicing any religion at all. This is especially true among millennials, those born after 1980.
This presents a problem and an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ. It’s a problem because people are less likely to attend worship services at the local church. It’s not a secret that 4000-6000 churches close every year. I suspect that if you are Christian who attends church regularly here in Shelbyville, your church has seen a decrease in attendance over the last 20 years. The good news is, you’re not alone. This is happening to many congregations. The bad news is, the bleeding doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. We don’t live in 1950 anymore. People don’t go to church because they know it’s the right thing to do. They don’t go to church just because their parents do. This is the problem.
Yet, the increasing secularization of our nation also provides the church a unique opportunity. Secularism means people are rejecting Christ, and when people reject Christ sin increases. When sin increases, people’s lives are destroyed. Don’t believe me? Look at the rise of the drug epidemic. Indiana foster care agencies don’t have enough families to take in the children of drug addicted parents who lose their kids to CPS. Lives are being destroyed, not just because of drugs and alcohol, but because that’s what sin does. It kills! And Satan loves this day! He has more tools in his arsenal than ever.
But, there is hope, and this is where the church can shine. With more people reaping the consequences of their sin, it will also increase the likelihood that people will seek help. The church has the unique ability to offer hope by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the life death, and resurrection of our Savior that brings hope, life and healing.
That being said, the church will have to find strategic ways to reach a hurting world apart from organized religion. They’re not walking in our doors on Sunday, but we can go to them. I predict that in the next 20-30 years, more and more parachurch organizations, like the Grace House, the men’s recovery home I oversee here in Shelbyville, will pop up. While people might reject organized religion, they will receive love and hope from Christian organizations. I believe you will see a rise in Christian counselors, addiction programs, foster care agencies, adoption etc.
We have to answer the call and obey the command to “Go!” (Matthew 28:18-20). Go to them, because they aren’t coming to us.
If you know someone struggling with addiction or needs to be ministered to in the county jail, please contact me. I may be able to help in this area.