The United States is post-Christian.
The population of the United States identifying as Christian has been in decline for many years.
According to a study from the Pew Research Forum, the Christian population of the United States suffered a staggering 8 percent decline between 2007 and 2014. Christianity is also seen as a valid target for mockery in American pop culture, with even the shooting victims from the Sutherland Springs, Texas, massacre being mocked by many commentators for their faith in God.
The decline is also reshaping American congregations, many of whom are combining in an effort to stay open.
“We no longer live in Christendom,” the Rev. Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, told The Baltimore Sun.
Some religious leaders blame the increased demands on people’s time, the variety of activities available on weekends and the decline of “blue laws” that closed businesses on Sundays as responsible for the drop in churchgoing.
Joe Kovacs, executive news editor of WND and the author of “Shocked By The Bible 2,” suggests there is something to that. However, he argues the real source of these distractions from God is something far more malevolent than technology.
“We live in a world full of distractions, with ‘the god of this world,’ better known as Satan the devil, promoting countless activities and attractions that divert people’s attention from the very reason they exist,” he said. “He is distracting them from the God who is looking to perfect human beings into the children of God, the literal ‘offspring of God,’ as the New Testament declares. Satan knows that people are attracted to things they see, so it’s very easy for people to fall into the trap of spending our time watching sports, TV, movies, Facebook feeds or funny videos on the Internet rather than focusing on the God who is unseen.
“Meanwhile, there has been a zeitgeist, a spirit of the times, in recent years to mock and impugn anything to do with the God of the Bible. Countless people are influenced by this, because they want to do what’s cool. Apparently learning the glorious truth about why we’re all here and how to inherit eternal life doesn’t score so high on the cool scale these days.”
Kovacs suggests the decline of the Christian faith could be a sign the conditions for the return of Jesus Christ are being set.
“Scripture speaks about conditions at the return of Jesus, saying there will be a ‘falling away,’ or as some Bibles translate it, a rebellion against God,” he noted. “So conditions for the return of Jesus will likely have true-believing Christians in a weakened state. The rebellion against God has been going on for a very long time, but will only intensify as the Second Coming approaches.”
Joseph Farah, founder of WND and the author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” has another idea about what’s plaguing most of the organized church.
“It’s not the church,” he says. “Just because people belong to a church or attend church is not the biblical definition of who is part of the church at all. The Bible defines the church as the assembly of the Body of Christ. But if you reject the teachings of Jesus – His commandments – you are simply not part of that body.”
What does he mean?
“For starters, Jesus said this: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments,'” he reminds, citing John 14:15. “What are Jesus’ commandments? Well, they are the same commandments found in the Torah, since we know Jesus is the Word (John 1:14) and the Creator of all things, (John 1:3) according to John. That means Jesus is the God of the Old Testament as well as the New. Most people who call themselves Christians simply don’t believe that or are unaware of this scriptural fact. They never hear it in sermons. They don’t learn it in Bible studies in the organized church. So, they tend to believe there was a sudden and abrupt change in God’s plans for humanity sometime between the Old Testament and the New. It’s simply not so. God doesn’t change His mind. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Pastor Carl Gallups, who examines scriptual evidence for the last days in his new book “When The Lion Roars,” also sees prophetic significance in the decline of American Christianity.
“We are living at least in the edges of the days of apostasy spoken of in the New Testament – one of the prophetic markers of the last days before the return of Jesus,” the pastor intoned. “There is no doubt a great falling away is occurring in the United States. And when one considers that the Unites States is the largest Christian nation that the world has ever known, the ominous message of that falling away is heightened.”
However, Gallups argues there are signs of growth for the faith in other nations around the world.
“There are record numbers of Jews coming to Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord,” he claims. “There are also millions of Muslims converting to Jesus Christ around the world every year. In the midst of those two amazing phenomena, it is reported that China may indeed become the largest Christian nation on the planet by the year 2030; and this in the face of alarming and increasing persecution of Christian believers in China.
“It appears that the dual-prophecy that so many Bible teachers of the past spoke of – a great falling away happening in conjunction with a great revival – is taking place right now, in our lifetime! We are the first historical generation to see such an amazing prophetic fulfillment.”
Gallups also observed the decline in American Christianity is not equal throughout all denominations. American evangelicals are more resistant to decline, although recent studies suggest even evangelicals are beginning to suffer defections from the faith. However, the decline seems to be the most drastic within mainline Protestant denominations and among Catholics.
“So many of the older and mainline sects of the Protestant and Catholic faith systems are embracing so much false teaching, political correctness, and abject heresy,” argues Gallups. “Those who truly belong to Jesus Christ in a born-again relationship are looking for an anchor of solid biblical faith. They are finding that solidarity within the ranks of conservative evangelicals.”
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Farah added, “Much of the church no longer knows what it believes. There’s much confusion about the doctrines of biblical faith. Many professing Christians have no idea who Jesus really was and is. He’s often regarded like a magic friend, rather than the Creator of the universe, the Messiah, the Son of God, our holy Redeemer and judge.”
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the internationally renowned scriptural teacher, Messianic rabbi and the author of several bestselling books such as “The Harbinger,” explains the real collapse in Christianity has occurred in liberal congregations.
“Liberal Christianity has in many cases departed from its foundation in the Word of God,” Cahn said. “Evangelical churches by and large represent a Christianity that holds to God’s Word.
“In many ways it is what we would expect. As American culture increasingly departs from God’s ways, we expect a polarization, with the grays disappearing – with one part of the culture becoming increasingly anti-Christian, and the other part becoming more radically Christian. Thus, a Christianity that is less grounded on the Word of God and which could be seen as more gray, would be the first to see a decline.”
However, noting more recent figures show evangelical denominations are also suffering a decline in membership, Cahn urges conservative Christians not to be sanguine about the future of the faith.
“This is not to say that the evangelical church will not in the days ahead have its own challenges with numbers, especially with the younger generation,” he said. “On the other hand, since evangelical Christianity is more based on and open to revival, if revival comes, all numbers and polling are up for grabs.
“More than church attendance numbers, the issue is America’s need to return to God, repentance, and revival. It is for that which we must now fervently pray.”
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Indeed, Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries rejects the narrative of Christian decline.
“True people of faith are not declining,” she maintains. “Many evangelical organizations and churches are providing answers to their people who are watching things implode. I have over 6,000 people traveling cross country to my annual conference just because they are hungry for the truth from an evangelical perspective. They really want to know what the Bible says about our times. They realize that it is only Scripture that gives insights to the dilemmas of our day.”
Yet it is impossible to deny some denominations are clearly declining, according to Markell.
“Liberal Christianity and watered-down Christianity are declining,” she said. “They are not providing answers at a time in history when society is collapsing, families are being torn apart, and people see that the world is spinning out of control.”
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Mark Biltz, author of “God’s Day Timer,” says the root of the problem is how Christian denominations have watered down the tenets of the faith.
“I believe the decline in membership among mainline Christian denominations is because they are leaving biblical Christianity and watering everything down to the point there is no reason to attend other than social reasons,” he said. “Some evangelical congregations are growing because they are picking up the disenfranchised Catholics and those from the mainline denominations. If you truly believe in the God of the Bible, the activities of the world will not stop you from going to church.”
Biltz identified his own congregation, El Shaddai Ministries, as an example.
“I live in Washington state, which is one of the states with the fewest number of churchgoers in all 50 states,” he observed. “There are huge draws every weekend here giving reasons for people not to attend church. Yet we have a thriving congregation.”
Biltz argues America will never become a secular society, even if Christianity declines. Instead, secularization will simply be a waypoint preceding the growth of a new faith.
“There is no such thing as a secular society lasting for the long term,” he said. “They are usually destroyed and rebuilt over and over.”
But Biltz says the decline in Christianity most likely has last days significance.
“Moses’s generation was known as a generation of no faith,” he said. “Messiah’s generation was known as a generation of no faith. And Jesus even questioned whether He would find faith on Earth when He returned, implying that the final generation would again be known as one of no faith.”
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Still, despite the grim outlook for the faith in the near future, some commentators are optimistic. Kovacs, for example, dismisses the idea the introduction of “blue laws” on Sundays would somehow serve as a one-shot solution to increase church attendance. Instead, he urges Christians to turn to the actual teachings of Scripture, perhaps for the first time, and use that knowledge to revitalize the faith.
“It’s not really a matter of man-made human laws,” Kovacs said of declining church attendance and what can be done to reverse it. “It’s a matter of people not knowing what the Bible teaches, or even abandoning what the Bible teaches. For instance, millions of folks who call themselves Christian don’t even realize that Sunday is not the Sabbath day of rest as was commanded by God and observed by Jesus. From the very first week of creation in the garden of Eden, God rested on the seventh day of the week – what we call Saturday – and not the first day of the week, which is Sunday. Thus, all those blue laws banning certain activities were citing the wrong day to begin with.
“Getting into harmony with the instructions of God will go a long way toward a revival of true Christianity.”