Western society is in decline, along with the church. But that decline is coupled with problems in two other areas of society. To see church decline reverse, we must revitalize two things: work and family. Allow me to explain why.
Most Bible teachers divide the Ten Commandments into two sections: our relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11) and our relationship with others (Exodus 20:12-17).
I’d like to suggest that this division is not as natural to the text as we might think. Let me suggest a different division; one that follows a previous text.
The Ten Commandments should have a threefold division: our relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11), our relationship with family (Exodus 20:12), and our relationship with with society (Exodus 20:13-17). In fact, I would add a bit of over overlap in categories saying that verses 13 and 14 also fall under the family category. Here’s why. This division of the text follows the order of creation presented in Genesis 1-2. (1) God creates man to worship him and work the garden, (2) God creates family and commands procreation through marriage, and (3) Through these things God creates society.
Why do I list murder among the commands applicable to the family category? Because, in the order of creation God tells the first couple not to eat of the fruit or else they would die. What does Eve do? She gets Adam to eat of the fruit, bringing death. While not “murder” in the classic sense, she causes the death of their “good” state and mankind is never the same.
Now, regarding this three-fold division, I think we can learn something about God’s priority for people. The first institution God established was work (Genesis 2:7) in which man is to be a reflection of God in what he does. The second institution is marriage and family. God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25) through which offspring were to come (Genesis 1:27-28). It is then through family and work that society is established. Without either of the first two, society cannot form or function. And since family is the primary means by which faith is communicated from one generation to the next (Deuteronomy 6:4-25), religion breaks down and falls into decline when family breaks down and work is shunned. Society (and the church), thus, declines.
Now, I’ve said all of this in a roundabout way to make a point about our own society. American and western society is in undeniable decline. Not only this, but there are many who argue that Christianity in the west is also in decline. In fact, to drive home my point further, consider the following.
There are two institutions in America which have shown signs of decay and crumble, and with them goes church decline: work and family. Consider that people who do not work (have no intention to work), are far less likely to attend church. Welfare dependent people are far less likely to attend church than those who work. What have we seen in the last eight years? An unprecedented number of people disengaged from the workforce (whether no fault of their own is not relevant). Look at families. High divorce, marriage occurring later and later, astronomical rates of abortion, sky high rates of fatherless homes, and the societally accepted legal redefinition of family and marriage. All of these run contrary to the development of society and in particular, a society based upon Christian values. Thus, lessening the value of work and family help contribute to the decline in church life and practice. Work, family, and church are inextricably related to each another. Damage any one of the three and all begin to make a downward journey. This is exactly what we have seen in American society, especially in the last eight years.
There is hope. Church wise, globally, more people are hearing and responding to the gospel than ever before in history. Many people, especially in America, are growing tired of an economic meddling in the last eight years that has driven nearly half the adult population from the workforce. And then there is family. God has promised in these last days to, “Turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). The restoration of the family is a critical component to reverse the decline of western Christianity.
In something as basic as the Ten Commandments we have a framework to ensure the stabilization and growth of our society and the church. It begins with fidelity to God, which is expressed through fidelity to family, and fidelity to society through work. This simple formula can save our society and our church. Without work and family society is lost.