What’s A Church
Gallup recently reported that for the first time in the 80 years Gallup has done polling, church membership has fallen below 50% in America. In 2020, only 47% of the population reported they belonged to a church or other religious organization. In 1999 that number was 70%. Not only that, but the increase in “nones” – Americans who report no religious affiliation, is growing rapidly. In 2000 the percentage responding “none” to religious affiliation was 8%. Today that number is 21%. A third of Americans (33%) under 30 years of age are classified as “nones.”
Here is more bad news. In 2020 there were approximately 3000 churches planted (new churches) by protestants in America. During that same period of time, about 4500 churches closed their doors permanently.
Any way we measure it, the church in America is hurting. We are fighting, struggling and failing in the battle for people’s hearts and our culture’s future. Everywhere we look we see societal upheaval, hatred, division, greed, tragedy and trouble that have their roots in a lack of spiritual life and commitment.
What can we do? Is there anything we can do?
Absolutely! This situation is not new to God’s people. In Old Testament times the people of God faced failure and heartbreak over and over again. In New Testament times the church was born in an era and place (Roman world) that was opposed to anything of the Lord and His purposes. At that time, the culture was so opposed to God they hung His Son on the cross.
What can we do? What must we do?
First, remember that only the Lord can build His house (church!). Psalm 127:1 declares, “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain….” We must place all our trust in the Lord and depend on Him to guide and empower us to build His church. If we try to do this with our own strength and wisdom, we will fail miserably.
Second, we must listen to the Lord. God is saying vital things to us during this time of pain. He wants to use these struggles for our good and His glory. James 1:2 says, “Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials….”
Third, as we listen to the Lord, we must always put Him and His purposes first! Matthew 6:33 commands, “But seek first the kingdom of God….” It is so easy to get distracted and discouraged. We must keep our focus riveted on the Lord!
Fourth, we must remain faithful, persistent and patient! In Hebrews 6 the scriptures recount Abraham’s faithful belief in God’s promises and his patience in waiting on their fulfillment. Hebrews 6:14 records the Lord’s promise to Abraham, “I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you.” And then Hebrews 6:15 declares Abraham’s response, “And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise.”
Fifth, we need to celebrate and support the great work of God that is going on in other parts of the world! In Asia, Africa and other places in the world, the gospel is exploding. People are coming to Christ in amazing numbers and churches are being planted more rapidly than we can count. We need to thank God for this season of fruitfulness in these parts of the world and pray, give and go to support this outpouring of God’s Spirit!
Finally, God is up to far more than we can fathom. One translation of Isaiah 55:8 says it like this, “ ‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts’, says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’ ”
As we are faithful in building our own relationship with the Lord and faithful in serving the Lord through His church, His purposes will be realized through our lives and churches and we will be victorious!