I read an old 2012 news article today which made me consider the secular situation the church finds herself in today.
According to this article, Protestant Christianity in America and Great Britain is decreasing, Catholicism has been flatlining, and “Nones” (those who indicate as having no religion at all) are on the increase.
This paragraph in particular stuck out at me, and I’d like to share it with you:
Those youngsters [the ‘Nones’] who once went to church out of obligation are now spending Sunday mornings in the supermarket or the gym (body worship is a flourishing faith). That means that the only young people in the pews are true believers who really want to be there.
Due to the rise of religious disaffiliation (the act of ceasing to identify oneself with and participate in a religious group), more and more people are leaving church who do not actually want to go to church This largely leaves the true believers remaining.
Now, on one level, this is clearly bad thing, Of course it’s terrible that less young people are going to church.
But there seems to be something good about it as well. For when people leave church who do not actually want to be there, it seems that all you’re left with is the real deal. If a person visits a church, they can be more likely to expect real born-again believers indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of God.
There is nothing sadder in the world than Christian religious nominalism — being Christian in name only, and not in actuality. The nominally religious are spiritually dead reprobates with a false assurance that is leading them to hell.
Nominal church cultures breed fake Christians with false professions of faith. There’s probably nothing more harmful to a true believer than seeking holiness in a large, spiritually dead church full of nominal Christians.
I have a friend who lives in Houston, Texas, in the so-called Bible-belt. He finds it so frustrating to try and be truly holy and encouraged in a context where everyone just goes to church because that’s just what people do.
So maybe the secularisation of society has just drawn the battle-lines clearer. The church has always flourished the most under opposition. It’s only when she has become comfortable that she has become fat, lazy and unfruitful.
We can even see this in the history of Israel, in the Bible. Whenever Israel rested secure, she sinned, and drove the LORD away. But God was with his true believers like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah in the midst of nation-wide backsliddenness.
Perhaps, then, an increase in religious disaffiliation within Christianity will wake us believers up to run the race with perseverance, prepare, and do the good Gospel work God has called us to do. Perhaps God will have compassion, and once again work this evil out for the good of his people.