“Pastor, I used to be religious. I’d pray and read my Bible. I don’t know what happened – I just don’t do it anymore.”
“Pastor, I made a profession of faith when I was a kid. I used to go to church, but when my brother died I was so made at God I just couldn’t go back to church. I’m a Christian, though.”
“Pastor, I was faithful to church, even helped with the children, but when my husband left me I just didn’t feel comfortable going back to church. It’s been 10 years now.”
Daily these were my conversations in our community. It didn’t matter if I was at a restaurant, visiting door to door, at a ball game, in my office, having my taxes prepared, in a hospital – literally everywhere – this was the conversation.
The reasons were: a family member died and the survivor was mad at God; a loved one had passed and they missed them every-time they were at church; they had faced a health struggle themselves, divorce, financial struggles, grudges with others in the church, just had gotten busy; their kids had too many activities, or maybe they didn’t like the music style of the worship service. Often it was that the individual had his or her feelings hurt at church and would quit practicing his or her faith – which is crazy when you have people across the world being killed for their faith.
Through a meticulously study of the condition of churches in America, I found this wasn’t just the case in my community. In all the different studies and statistics I have read through, the most staggering came from author David Sanford. Sanford wrote a 2008 book, “If God Disappears,” in which he addresses what he saw as an epidemic. His research showed that there was at that time 35 million professed Christians who had once attended church, but no longer did. By 2014, he shared, the number had risen to 42 million.
Now, attending church is not the epitome of the Christian faith, but it usually is a telling part of one practicing his faith. In September 2016, the Barna Group shared that only 41 percent of Christians in America practiced their faith, and survey’s litmus test for practicing one’s faith was rather low.
As Sanford had written, this is an epidemic.
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Many other writers had captured this same sentiment in younger generations. The president of Lifeway, Thom Rainer, concluded that 70 percent of all children who grow up in church are gone by the age 22.
This is an absolute tragedy, but the phenomena should not be surprising. Biblical prophecy gives us pictures of how things will be at the end of the age. The trustworthy images given tell us not only what the geopolitical and environmental scene will be, but Scripture also tells how people, especially Christians, will be at the end.
One of those pictures is recorded in Matthew 24:10 where Jesus states that “many will turn away from the faith.” The original language behind the passage is not so much describing an abandonment of God, but Christians being made to stumble and to temporarily or for the rest of their lives on earth no longer walk faithfully with Christ.
This verse perfectly describes the scene in America. We may not be to the point of the turning away, but we are surely at a turning away. And the possibility breaks this pastor’s heart. I became overwhelmed with this reality that those I stood before each Sunday could possibly turn away. All I could think of in preparing messages and carrying out my pastoral duties was: Had I prepared them to remain faithful through the difficulties now and especially those coming?
This burning concern led me to write “Spiritual Prepper.”
Through the book, I feel as if I am running through the halls of churches in America waiving my arms and saying there is an epidemic of turning away that was prophesied and is happening – but the church and many leaders are oblivious to it.
These overlooked prophecies need to be looked at and proclaimed to all of our believing friends.
All Christians need to realize that spiritual disasters occur in our lives and will come in even greater force in the future. We must prepare. Like doomsday preppers who fortifies their lives to withstand the possible world ending events, we must first and foremost prep to protect our soul.