American society is in decline. There’s no denying the obvious. It doesn’t matter if we examine our political influence or our spiritual history, there is no denying that America is in decline. America will eventually go the way of all nations. That is not to be pessimistic, it is simply an historical observation.
Those who care deeply for their country are working hard to restore America to its former glory, but ultimately such efforts can only lead to a short-term reform. Like the great kings of Israel—Jehoshaphat, Josiah, and Hezekiah—noble efforts can be made for reform but the final conclusion is already at hand. There is only one kingdom that will never suffer decline, that of the returning Christ, but that day has not come yet.
When looking at the decline of America sometimes people say that the church has failed in its job to be a moral or spiritual influence in American life. I’ve thought the same from time to time but have come to a reformation in my thinking. I don’t think that the church is at fault for America’s condition. Nor do I believe that the church is out of touch or irrelevant to America today. On the contrary, I think the church is more in touch, relevant, and active when it comes to trying to reach American society with the Gospel. Allow me to explain why I believe this is.
Is The American Church Out Of Touch? I Don’t Think So
I can’t think of a time in history when the church in general has been more relevant and passionate about reaching its culture for Christ. From the home church movement to the phenomenon of gigachurches, there are more efforts and more money being spent to reach American culture and even the world, than ever before. Not every strategy is biblically sound, but in one sense that doesn’t matter. The effort to reach America for Christ is unparalleled in history. Think of all of the ministries and projects there are in use to spiritually engage America: Thousands of Christian radio and TV stations, multimedia projects online and in distribution, thousands of churches using multimedia to engage their communities, theological and evangelistic projects online for training as well as evangelism. Community outreaches, mercy ministries, homeless ministries, and campus ministries on almost every high school and college Campus in America are exposing more people to the Gospel, multiple times, than at any time in previous history. Social media has become a normal part of Christian outreach, especially in mega- and gigachurches; but the small churches are embracing these new tools as well. Regardless of your political persuasion, there are numerous outreaches to governments and those in the political arena designed around reforming American politics and engaging the government in areas of law and order. This is also unparalleled.
Some observers have criticized individual churches as being out of touch, focused on whites, or blacks, or hispanics, or certain income groups. Yet I see these as a good thing, not a bad thing. Every society forms groups designed to meet the needs of people within its own group. This is not being out of touch, it is, in fact, demonstrative of churches drilling down to where people live and meeting the needs of its own groups. I once belonged to a church whose primary membership was 50 plus. My family and I often felt like the church was out of touch with our needs. Yet, in hindsight I realized that it wasn’t the church that was out of touch, we were. Its older leadership was simply trying to do all it could to reach out to its own age group—and that’s a good thing. Emphasizing ministry efforts along racial and sub-culture lines isn’t a demonstration of division, it’s a demonstration of specialized or targeted outreach.
Just Because A Society Is Crumbling Doesn’t Mean The Church Is At Fault
Throughout history societies have stumbled and failed. Laying the blame on the Christian church, which Christians seem to excel at, is misguided. America is a great example of this. Ninety-five percent of all ministries dollars spent in the world are spent to reach Americans, yet American society remains in trouble. How can the church be at fault for America’s woes when it spends so much time and energy to evangelize its own society?
Societies that fall do so not because the church fails to reach out, but because society rejects the message the church brings. Some might argue that the fault lies in how we communicate the Gospel. But again, I don’t think this makes the church the culprit. There are a wide variety of forms in which ministries and everyday Christians try to communicate the Gospel. Specialized efforts at evangelism don’t make the church liable for society’s woes. Society is in trouble in spite of what the church is doing.
Throughout history societies have crumbled and fallen—but when did we ever hear that it was the church’s fault? Why do we blame the American church today for America’s moral failures?
Some remark that the American church is shrinking. That may be so, but a shrinking church isn’t necessarily a failing church. God told Elijah that he reserved 7,000 in Israel to be faithful to his name. The rest of Israel was in decline—but God never blamed the “church” of its day. Even though the seven churches of revelation had serious problems to overcome, God didn’t blame these or any other church for the problems in the societies in which they lived. Societies are to blame for their own sin, for their own rejection of the message of Jesus, no matter how the Gospel is delivered. If shrinking numbers are a sign of a church out of touch or to blame for a society crumbling, then we’d have to blame Jesus for the shrinking numbers of his followers in John 6:66. That would not be reasonable. A small church isn’t a failing church. How many people did Jeremiah win over? Can you count them on one hand? Yet we don’t call Jeremiah’s ministry a failure.
As Christians we should be careful that we don’t fall into a spiritual form of political correctness. Modern society likes to lay the blame for its problems on every group other than its own. Sometimes the church seems to be target number one. Yet the rejection of the message of Christ badly delivered doesn’t take American society off the hook. Regardless of whether or not you like the form, the message has been delivered, multiple times, and American society is responsible for what it has heard. God will not take America off the hook over its protestations of not having the message delivered the way it wants.
The church is not at fault for America’s woes. The church is not responsible for America’s decline. The church is spending more effort and money to help, reform, revitalize and even evangelize America than any country in history has ever received. America is responsible for its own woes. And the church is doing the just fine, thank you.