Post-Christian?

By Jaime Nava

America has been considered a Christian nation for quite some time. It’s considered that because of the number of Christians who are here and the values they hold, not because everyone here is automatically converted. People have been saying for years that America is becoming or has become a post-Christian nation. What do they mean by that? Usually, it means that there are fewer people going to church in the US or that attendance is down. Those things are true. Attendance across all denominations is dropping. And before we look at those megachurches that seem to be bulging with folks, let’s remember that megachurches only account for 10% of attendance in the US. They are struggling to maintain regular attendance. They have also seen a drop in growth. The point is that all churches and all denominations of all sizes are watching the number of people who called themselves Christians going down faster than it ever has. That’s compounded by the fact that children are growing up more biblically illiterate than ever. At a higher rate than ever, our kids going out to college call themselves “none,” which means they have no religious affiliation. Gen X’ers (35-49) are dipping out, too.

We have before us a fundamental shift away from Christian worldviews. Standards for morality, truth, and fiction, and at least some level of guilt and things taken for granted aren’t valued anymore. There are those who wring their hands just before throwing them up. There are others who don’t want a perfectly good crisis to go to waste. Some churches are trying the most ridiculous stuff to get people in the door. I don’t have a lot of hope for the shift changing any time soon. I’m not going to cater to it, either. Yet, I hear the cry, “The Church is dying! We must resuscitate!” Of so many ridiculous things I hear, I think this one is near the top of most ridiculous.

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Let’s consider a few things. The Church and state had not always been so close. To begin with, the Church had suffered persecution and murder of Her leaders for years. Death makes for difficult vision statements and yet the Church survived. Once Constantine decided that the Church and state would meld together, things shifted. Colleges, hospitals, art, and music exploded onto the scene, as did corruption in the leadership. For a time, to be political could also mean being a church leader. This conglomeration of Church and state is what is called Constantinianism. It came to a head in the French Revolution when the people saw the Church and state as the same thing and thus overthrew both. This result of the so-called Enlightenment has been having an impact ever since. In the US, the wall of separation between Church and state (to protect religion) has turned into something similar to what Trump wants to have between Mexico and us. This gradual shift, moving for hundreds of years now, is finally seeing a generation of kids who have no idea who Jonah is.

This leads Time magazine to write articles on a post-Christian America. This has church leaders seeing business models and action strategies as the best way to get the unchurched into their building. This has people saying that Christianity is dying and needs to be given new life and new energy. How does this happen? Gimmicks and games, usually. The thing that people are not considering is this; the Church cannot die.

We do not live in a post-Christian era, because Christ is here to stay. It can be post-Constantinian, but there’s no such thing as post-Christian. He is risen! The Church, as the body of Christ, is a part of the life of Christ. Christ cannot die again. His body cannot die again. What is so often missing from people who see this crisis as a need for more business models is Christ. In a time when we should be proclaiming what we believe with absolute clarity and truth, there are so many Churches that are not. Just listen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to get a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg. The focus is on life principles, social justice, or even the rapture but hardly on the death of Christ for our sins and His resurrection for our life. In an era where people don’t know the Gospel, why give anything else? The truth is, this should be happening in every era of the Church.

Sure, congregations are closing their doors here and there. Sure, numbers are not looking good. Sure, businesses and government are becoming hostile to absolute truth and Christian values. Should we be worried? Of course, we care that people out there need to hear the Gospel. How do we get them to hear? Well, first of all, preach it every Sunday. It sounds pretty basic, but it’s less common than you think. Also, invite people to those places that are preaching the Gospel. Share the thing that gives life. If we are doing that, then we can let the Holy Spirit do the work that God desires. Let God be God. We can trust that the Body of Christ cannot die. Things may be post-Constantine, but they aren’t post-Christ. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

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One thought on “Post-Christian?

  1. Having grown up Lutheran (LCMS), my experience is that there is a lack of energy, not on God’s part, but on our own. To be in a church, regardless of denomination, is simply what most people did and they were, for the most part, self-satisfied and received what they came to receive. Outreach was a rare thing. Churches were even a center of social activity such that one needn’t mix with others outside the faith. Numbers were sustained by culture and birth rate. This is not how the Church grows and not how faith is lived.

    I think Luther’s words ring true “For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.”

    It is not that we cause the Church to grow in numbers but, as the harvest in our place and time dwindles, as more ears have heard and rejected, as those committed to other gods grow in number, we enter a time when shining brighter is part of God’s elective plan to gather the lost and He does that through us in vocation and in preaching. We need a solid Church to welcome the remaining stragglers. As our numbers diminish, we need more nourishment. As we realize the joy of our salvation, we are encouraged to live more boldly in the world and realize that we continue to go to church, not because it is what people do, but because we truly need and want to go. We also support the work in newer fields and fertile soil in other areas where the harvest is ripening and see that the Church is growing.

    Personally, I want to see my little congregation change to match the population. I can’t wait to see when nearly all the Nordic and German names are gone, having moved to find fortune in other areas or died out, in favor of all the local English, Hispanic, Dutch, and Irish names that surround us. I want to see that with the church still open and still preaching the pure Gospel. I’m not looking for numbers, I’m looking for relevance and perseverance.

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