I love stats at times. I use them all the time when talking about youth and young adult rentention in the church today. Sometimes I believe people think I must be quite depressed as I have spent a significant part of my life studying, writing, and speaking about the loss to certain age groups in their faith circles.
I read so many articles from faith groups and atheist groups talking about the demise of faith, the decline of the Church, and about a mass exodus taking place on a weekly basis. This is what I do. However, I have not fallen into despair or have lost hope.
Why not? For two reasons. It isn’t true. Yes I said it, and I will explain. Secondly, I believe God is behind what is happening today.
Most of the numbers and stats people use are pointing to a decline in the numbers of certain age groups in some western countries. However, this is a segment. To declare ‘Faith is Dead’ without studying the whole picture is problematic, as you can come to false conclusions, as many have. It may be easy to say ‘American Christianity’ is on the decline but to even state the end is coming is an absolute lie some want you to believe.
The fact is that faith is on the rise. The global percentage of Christians in the world is not in decline at all. This may be disheartening to those who claim otherwise, but you can’t argue with the facts.
Here is just one example. The segment of Christianity called the Pentecostal movement is presently growing at an astonising rate worldwide. I am not speaking about a denomination but rather a group that not only holds a strong belief in Jesus, His divinity, the Bible, but it also believes that God is clearly at work today. In just the last 100 years this group has grown from a handful to a number so large that some claim it has reached over one billion. In all of history no faith group, or non-faith group, has grown so quickly. Ever. This is happening right now. If this group keeps growing at the same rate, as it consistently has for the past one hundred years, then there will be no non-believers in less than a century.
Even in North America, where many are claiming an end of faith, these groups are not in decline. In 2013 the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the US grew. In Canada, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, has just announced plans to start four hundred new churches.
As for the second point, I have come to the conclusion that God is behind much of what is happening in some western contexts of where we are seeing decline. Again, let me give a few reasons why I hold to this belief.
First, there are denominational groups who, in essence, have become post-Christian. These would be groups who no longer hold the basic beliefs and practices of Christianity. In every case, these denominations are in steep decline and soon will cease to exist.
Second, the loss of the ‘Americanized Church’, ‘Mega-Church Movement’, or the ‘Tel-Evangelist’ could be a very refreshing change. This is not to say there will not be big churches, there will be. If a church grows it becomes bigger, that is how healthy things are. However, people in general are tired of the ‘show’ and are seeking something far more authentic.
Third, I believe the loss of all our buildings and stuff could be the best thing that ever happened to the Church today. Why? I believe this because it happened before, and it caused one of the greatest growth periods of the Church.
Many falsely believe that Jesus gave the great commission to go and preach to all people, and all nations, and that the disciples and the believers went and did it right then. They didn’t. It seems most stayed right where they were. However, persecution came. They lost their homes. They lost their gathering places. I am sure they felt hopeless and that God had deserted them. I am sure they felt as many people do today who are in the same spot.
However, what they thought was going to hurt the gospel became the greatest tool in its spread. Forcing them out of their safe places made them take the gospel to places it never was, to people who had never heard, to countries both near and far. I have now come to believe God is helping us make a shift in our country where we to are going to be in a place where the Church is going to move outside of it walls. That it is going to have to learn to be salt and light in the community, in our neighbourhoods, and in our homes.
I think it sounds wonderful.
There has never been a better day to be living in Faith. We are literally having the chance to live in an era when the most people in all of history are and will become followers of Jesus.