When I read that story in the newspaper it did not surprise me in the least but I still experienced a certain sense of melancholy nonetheless. The statistic confirms what is already obvious. It speaks of a loss of consensus in our nation based on Christian fundamentals and of an increasing tilt toward a postmodern rejection of long held values and beliefs. No one who is paying any attention at all would be surprised to learn that our nation is abandoning its undeniable Protestant Christian heritage. I believe that heritage has been crucial to our nation’s uniqueness. Others admit this is true as evidenced by the acknowledgement of that very idea by Chinese sociologists that I wrote about last year. So the trend gives me concern about where our nation is headed and what this will mean in the future.
To that I give a hearty “Amen!” I believe that is a fair indictment of many churches. Pastors seek to create successful ministries that depend on large staffs and impressive facilities, and those things take money, lots of money. So in many cases there is a constant pressure to give money. Failing to grasp the message of the gospel of grace, many churches are legalistically rife with rules. Committed to maintaining a comfortable lifestyle and not wanting to be in the minority, some churches exhibit a heavy emphasis on politics, seeking to gain power. I don’t blame people for tiring of that kind of religion.
What gives me comfort as I consider trends like the one this study reveals is that God is the ruler of all. This is no surprise to him. He sees the end from the beginning. He is the one who puts kings in power and humbles them as well. Whatever happens in this country is not out of his control. His plan for history continues to roll forward towards its certain goal. Ephesians 1:11 reminds us that God “works out everything in conformity with his purpose.” Everything. Including current trends in America. In the meantime, we can make a difference by offering people not power struggles, not politics dressed up as religion, not legalism, but the pure, unadulterated gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. It is powerful, it is good, it is joyful and it is life-giving. It will always draw people, for it is what they need most of all. Yes, we are in the minority. But is that new? Jesus said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Only a few find it, so those who do always have been and always will be a minority in this fallen world.