Is Christianity in Crisis?
After church one Sunday, the lady at the local bread shop asked me, “How’s your day?” I said, “Good.” Then she asked, “Why?” Well, I’d just been to church, and I froze. I wanted to tell her about church, but I said nothing. I thought if this woman finds out that I’m a Christian, she’ll think the worst of me. She’ll think I’m a racist, a bigot and a homophobe. So I said nothing.
Fewer people today identify as Christian, and it appears like we’re on the wrong side of history. But we have a mission to tell our friends and family about Jesus. So, what should we do?
Here are three options:
Option 1: We’re Doomed!
We could say it’s just too hard. We’re in a post-Christian, post-reached world, and this isn’t going to work. We’re doomed. If we try to tell anyone about Jesus, we feel as if we’re going to die. Our only option is to retreat into our little echo chambers and not tell anyone about Jesus.
Option 2: But We’re Not Dead.
In Option 2, the situation appears a little different. We’re not dead. In fact, Christianity is doing very well. It just depends where you’re looking. Right now, in the rest of the world, Christianity is the majority religion. More people know, love and worship Jesus than any other religion. The healthiness is seen in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. The fastest rates of growth are in the places where you least expect it: Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal and India. Even in secular Australia today, there’s a great openness to Christianity and to going to church, and even to reading the Bible with you one-on-one.
All this makes sense, since we have a longing for the transcendent, to be connected to the God who created and loved us. We long for a story bigger than our own. A God-given cry is common to us all. We want to hear the voice of our shepherd.
Barna’s research within the U.S. has found that the average person in the U.S. has a problem with the abstract idea of Christianity, but not with the Christian friend in their life. This means that lady at the bread shop might have had a problem with Christianity, but not with me.
Australian pastor Mark Sayers says that the issue today is not so much that we’re post-Christian, but that we’re actually post-secular. Secularism has said that if we had more education, more science and better government, we’d have a good life. But the COVID pandemic showed us that science alone wasn’t enough to guarantee a good life. The War in Ukraine has shown us that education and good government aren’t enough either.
As Sayers says, “It’s as if the tide of the gospel has gone so far out that the sheer weight of the gospel is going to come rushing back in.” This is not a threat to the gospel, but an opportunity. There is a vacuum out there that longs to be filled.
So what can we do about this?
Option 3: What If This Is How God Works?
It’s amazing how something so tiny can became so powerful, like a bit of yeast quietly at work overnight in a lump of dough. This is exactly how God works. The kingdom of God is like a handful of grapes that begins to ferment, only to explode out of the wineskin. It’s like a tiny little mustard seed that grows to become a large, powerful tree that shatters concrete and crushes pipes. People find shade under the tree and life flourishes within it. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like this. It appears tiny and silent. It looks weak. But actually the kingdom of God is very powerful.
Crisis Precedes Renewal
In the book of Judges, we find a pattern or cycle that helps us in our post-secular world: (1) crisis leads to (2) a remnant of God’s people crying out until (3) God acts. This is that pattern we see throughout the Bible, where crisis precedes renewal.
John Woodbridge says that prayer is a common theme found within the history of revivals. He says, “We do not have because we do not ask because we do not believe.”
Nothing is too hard for God. He created the universe out of nothing, causing life to spring into being, even raising Jesus from the dead. And we have a mission to tell our friends and family about Jesus.
What are some takeaway points here?
1. Start with radical prayer.
For missions to work, for evangelism to work, we begin with prayer. As my colleague Julianne says, “If God answered every one of your prayers at the end of this week, how many of your friends and family would become Christians?” Let’s pray to this end.
2. Develop a radar for evangelism.
We need to rekindle the fire and find the passion for evangelism. We can do this practically and accountably, even checking the health of our personal evangelism.
3. Read the Bible with someone.
Just do it. There are so many resources to do this. One resource we offer at City Bible Forum is The Word 121 which takes you through John’s gospel.
4. Revival begins with us.
Revival doesn’t happen out there. It begins with us. We have to humble ourselves, approach God in our brokenness, ask for his mercy, ask him to pour his Spirit out upon us to revive us.
Revival is a bottom-up work of God. It’s not top-down.
Remember, “We do not have because we do not ask because we do not believe.” But we do believe. We believe in a God who created this universe out of nothing. We believe in a God who fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. We believe in a God who raises the dead. We believe, and so we ask. And God in his mercy might send revival.
If things seem dark in our post-secular period, it’s dark for a reason. When things appear the darkest, that’s when the light shines the brightest.
This article is based on a presentation given at 2022 Amplify Outreach Conference and published in Outreach Magazine: https://outreachmagazine.com/features/evangelism/74545-sam-chan-is-christianity-in-crisis.html
Learn more and register for the 2023 Amplify Outreach Conference at AmplifyConference.org »
Photo by Vaibhav Jadhav: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-preparing-dough-for-bread-3218467/
More like this ...