USA Today basically reprinted a story from about six months ago today which shows an increasing number of folks who claim no religion (although half of those believe in God, funny what you can do with stats when you can make up your own definitions). Another recent article highlighted the decline of all denominations. And for those of us who are Presbyterians, we hear the drumbeat of decline yearly.
This can naturally bum out good folks who spend a great deal of effort in not just maintaining but also in building up the church. We can wonder what all the effort is for and lament that we are failing in the Great Commission.
While believing in evangelism as much as any good person of faith, I don’t think these current numbers are something to really get upset over. The bottom line is that today, there is no social pressure to go to church (often there is pressure not to). So, the good news is that the person sitting next to you in the pew really wants to be there. The church might have been fuller decades ago. But many attended back then for many reasons beyond really believing.
The smaller remnant which remains (a very Biblical truth which happens generation after generation) has the capability to reinvigorate and change society. Remember, the first generation of the church did not begin to be a majority of the people and yet they had much more influence in the long run than their neighbors.
The church should always be focused on baptizing and sharing the Good News in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Raw numbers measuring church membership are by no means the only way to judge how we are doing.
To put it another way, I’d much rather be a pastor today than in times gone by. I feel we have more of a chance to make a longer range impact today than other generations have ever had.
All the best,