I just finishing reading John Dickerson’s book, The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare. Under that shocking title, Dickerson argues that the six downfalls of Evangelicalism in the United States are over-inflated numbers and influence, the reality of a post-Christian culture, division, financial strain, the inability to keep young people in the church, and ineffectiveness at making new disciples.
While I believe that Dickerson’s doomsday projections are a bit overstated, no observing person could argue against the realities of these struggles for churches in America. Southern Baptist churches are no exception. The game has clearly changed in America. Reaching the lost and — apart from another Great Awakening — building strong, Kingdom-minded churches will become increasingly difficult. In fact, in the not too distant future, proclaiming biblical truth and staying out of court and/or out of jail will become increasingly difficult.
Media outlets reported earlier this month that two men who practice homosexuality have filed suit against the Church of England to permit their marriage there. As history has proven, what is born across the Atlantic eventually migrates to the shores of North America.
Given the growing hostility towards Christianity in general and a biblical worldview specifically, we should not be surprised that making disciples is getting more and more difficult. But plowing hard ground isn’t new ground for Christ-followers; it’s old ground. That’s why the New Testament is sprinkled with verses like 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, where Paul states, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus….” And yet, Paul adds, “…so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
In the midst of intense persecution that would eventually cost Paul his life, lost people were saved!
While the downturn in baptisms and church membership definitely justifies a moment of lamenting among the Lord’s faithful in America, let us take no more than a moment before we launch ourselves forward into a lost and dying land to share the life-giving message of the gospel of Jesus! His church may be rejected by the culture of our day just as he was rejected by the culture of his day but the victory of the Empty Tomb assures us that his bride will not be overcome (Matt 16:18).
Might the words of George Duffield’s 19th century hymn remind us of God’s call upon every generation of believers: “Ye that are brave now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.”