Yesterday, the annual statistics (for the denomination that I belong to) were published and they are not very encouraging. In the PCUSA, we decreased by 102,000 people in our total membership during the last year, which is equivalent to a 5% reduction in numbers. Several reasons were given for the reduction, which you can read at the following link: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/5/30/stated-clerk-releases-pcusa-2012-statistics/
No matter how we interpret the statistics, the reality of Western Christianity is this: even though we are living longer and the overall population is growing, the mainstream Christian church is declining instead of growing. From my perspective of pastoring for over 25 years in both Scotland and the United States, the more that the Church appeases or reflects Society, the less effective and relevant it actually becomes. Despite embracing many cultural changes, Western Christianity has no attraction for many people.
This may be the reality over here, but around the rest of the world, the Church continues to grow. Christianity, for all that it is maligned by Western Society, is still the fastest growing faith in Africa, Asia, and South America. Millions of people in far off places make personal decisions each year to give their lives to Christ, even though it may cost them their families, their careers and, in some severe cases, their lives. Christ’s Kingdom, as promised in the Book of Daniel, can never be destroyed. All over the world, different people and communities, nations and languages are praising God for their Savior Jesus. They are growing because, unlike us, they are willing to submit their lives to God’s Authority, Word, and Teaching. In decades to come, they will see our Western lands as mission fields, and bring back the Gospel of Christ to a wayward society that increasingly seeks to serve and idolize itself.
Questions for personal reflection
To what do I attribute the decline of Western Christianity? Do I really understand that Christianity is a global faith and not just a westernized one?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to see the Church as You see it, made up of people and nations from all over the Earth. Speak to our spirits through a Global Gospel and lead us away from self-serving and self-love to selfless serving and sacred love. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s symbolic denominational drawings called ‘A New Day.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7186/6857135507_2823395f41_b.jpg