Nevertheless, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of his thoughts and my reactions to them. First he predicts that evangelical Christians will “lose little ground as a percentage of the American population.” There has been considerable notice given to the Pew Research report in May that said the number of Christians in our nation is “declining sharply.” In the context of recent Supreme Court decisions this might have felt to some like the church is in full retreat in America. The problem with the report is it failed to distinguish between evangelical Christians and other varieties. There is considerable decline occurring, but it is happening in the mainline, liberal churches. The percentage of evangelical Christians is holding steady and possibly even growing. It is reasonable to think that in the near term future there may be some slight decline in the size of the evangelical population, but I agree that it is likely to be small. On the whole the evangelical church will do just fine.
That’s mostly bad news, but there is good news. Forster predicts that evangelical Christians will respond to our culture by creating what he calls “holistic and contextualized solutions” to economic and sexual destruction. Again I think and hope that he is right. Christians have never been called to exercise political power, and when they have tried to do so the results have usually been unfortunate at best. We are called to live as a minority and to manifest the grace of God in our milieu. We are to be the kingdom of God in the kingdom of this world. We are to love and care about people and be a beacon of light in the darkness as we hold out the message of the gospel of grace. Our culture’s path is going to lead to disillusionment and hurt for many people. Its thinking will not solve problems, but will make them worse. In such a context Christians have a great opportunity to bind up the wounds of hurting people and give them hope. In short, we have the chance to do what we are called to do and should have been doing all along. Our culture can bar us from positions of power, but it cannot stop us from following Jesus and loving people.
Forster’s final prediction is optimistic. He believes that the next five years will be dark and difficult for Christians, but he thinks that those years will be followed by a “new dawn.” He thinks that after that period the “persecution” that is now beginning will ease off, influenced both by the positive example of Christians and by a sense even among non-believers that it is wrong. I am not so sure about this one. I hope he is right, especially for my children’s and grandchildren’s sake. I don’t know that he is, but I pray so. Either way, there is good news in this, and the good news is that followers of Jesus can, and likely will, continue to follow him even in dark times. We can and will make a difference in the lives of many people, and isn’t that what God has called us to do?