According to a recent Pew Poll, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped sharply since 2007, from 78.4% to 70.6%. During that time, the percentage claiming agnosticism or atheism rose nearly as sharply, from 16.1% to 22.8%.
My response as a born-again believer? It’s an understatement. While I’m no perfect judge, I believe the Christian percentage is far lower than 70%, as scriptural truths carry little sway with most Americans. In my opinion, America isn’t leaving God right now. Rather, we’re becoming more comfortable admitting we already have. Again, just my opinion.
So who’s to blame? Who drove America from its foundational beliefs? Who did this?
That’s easy: We Christians did it.
You think I’m kidding? Guess again. To understand, read this scripture:
I Peter 3:15
Here’s what I mean: Suppose I told you to walk across a canyon on an invisible bridge. Wouldn’t you want to see me walk on the bridge? Or suppose I advise you to invest in a new company, saying it’s sure to pay huge dividends. But then, you see I won’t invest my own money…
If I show no trust in the bridge or investment, you’ll avoid these things because my actions speak louder than words. This is the key to demonstrating hope—I have to walk on the bridge. If we Christians don’t demonstrate hope in God, people have no reason to ask about our faith.
Examples? There are plenty. Just remember, we believe we have eternal life, eternal comfort, and eternal provision in Christ, and that our entire lives here are an instant by comparison. This in mind, let’s imagine I’m a Christian and you’re not:
- Suppose you and I work in an office, and I am overlooked for a much-deserved promotion. If I display resentment over losing this earthly position, what does that show you? Would you ask my thoughts on eternity with God, when I demonstrate more hope in getting my way right now? If I hope in the same things as you, why ask me about my hope?
- Or suppose we go to a restaurant and you see me tip poorly—clinging to that extra couple bucks for dear life. Do you want to ask about my hope in God’s everlasting provision?
- Or what if I discipline my children out of frustration, rather than for their benefit? As I scream, “You will respect my authori-tah!”, will you ask about the value I find in God?
- How about if I love those who love me, but gossip about those who don’t?
When I was an atheist, I remember wondering why Christians acted like everyone else. How could I be “lost?” How could they be “saved?” No, I never minded their imperfection. But it was their reliance upon my world—the way they seemed plugged into the same power source as me—that was confusing. I guess this is why I saw their Jesus as being no different from Mohammed, Buddha, or Gandhi.
Understand, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying things in this world. For instance, I like having a good car. The power, the handling, the interior comfort—it’s all great stuff. And I love shouting at my football team (enjoying, as Rush Limbaugh calls it, the "passion without consequence" of sports). One day, I want to attend a Green Bay Packers game, holding a simple sign that reads, "YOU MUST WIN. WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE."
Question is, do I need a good car? Do I lack the inner perspective to recover after watching sports? In other words, do I trust in these good things more than I trust in a good God? Hopefully not. Hopefully, I trust in the Giver, not the gifts. At any rate, I’d better figure out what bridge I’m walking on, because other people are watching.
And while I'm at it, I'd probably better leave the sign at home.
Read that first scripture again:
I Peter 3:15
But the darker the darkness, the brighter the light shines. How? Listen to the Apostle Paul:
Look, I’ll be honest. At its current pace, I see America completely turning on the church within a few decades. Is this reversible? Of course; it always has been. The formula never changes:
- Be prepared with real answers.
- Be gentle, showing respect toward listeners.
- Most importantly, do what Christians have hardly done for several decades: Give people a reason to ask questions by demonstrating hope in something they don’t have.
Numbers like those in the Pew Poll can be scary, as we see a nation leaving the Christian faith. But in those numbers, I see a message from America to us in the church. It goes like this:
“You want us to trust in God? You want us to walk on your bridge? Well…you first.”