A recent poll was released, right in time for Easter, meant to depress the faithful. Gallup declared that for the first time ever, less than 50% of Americans claim they are members of a religious body. Of course, these are same pollsters who absolutely blew the presidential polling of the last couple of elections. Also, the definition of membership is neither common among church bodies or understood uniformly among Americans. Still, many have already written about how this is yet another marker of the decline of the Church, let alone Christianity.
However, like Jesus on Sunday, the rumor of His body’s death has been greatly exaggerated. It is simply impossible for Christ’s church to decline, decrease, or deflate. Christians have never said that they see a holy Christian and apostolic church. We confess every Sunday that we BELIEVE in the holy Christian and apostolic Church. Perhaps more than any other message, Jesus pounds home for His disciples in parables that God’s kingdom will not look like they expect! Think mustard seed. not Notre Dame. Think orphan, not the esteemed paterfamilias at the communion rail. Jesus, the dude that rose from the dead, said that not even Hell can stop His church. If the Mohommedan can’t, don’t think Cardi B can.
Even if less Americans are attending a church, that is certainly not indicative of the world. I believe Martin Luther one time mentioned that the Holy Spirit comes and goes from culture to culture. Maybe Americans are rejecting the peace and hope of Christ for a gospel of their own illusion. God is on the move, knocking down barriers, sin, and fear. His Word is producing repentance and faith. His light is shining in darkness throughout the world. Right now someone is being baptized into a new reality. A scared and ashamed woman is hearing about a God who forgives and welcomes. A fearful old man is being told about a Jesus who rose and a God who freely gives resurrection!
The only appropriate response to this recent poll is one of sadness. No, we don’t need need to be sad for the Church. She is absolutely fine and healthy. We should be sad for the increasing amount of people who don’t know that there is antidote to death, who don’t know there is complete and free forgiveness that removes guilt and shame. The Church doesn’t need members. People need the Church and the hope and peace found in her Lord!
Christianity is not declining. It can not. It is. It is reality. Dark matter floating in the farthest reaches of space knows its Creator and His Son through whom it was made. Creatures at the bottom of the ocean groan for Christ’s coming again and the new heaven and new earth. Christ is risen, and that fact is undeterred by any poll. God loves sinners even if they don’t love Him back! The goal fo the Church isn’t trying to convince people to be a part of some club. The goal of God’s Church is to tell people the truth: Jesus died and rose for you, whether you are part of the 47% or not.