Summary: Christianity in America (and in Europe) is declining. This sermon share three challenges that caused the decline and how we respond to them.
Thirty-four years ago, a church was born in Walnut Creek under the leadership of Pastor X. During those years, we faced many challenges, both internally and externally. But by the grace of God, we still exist today. That is why today, we want to thank God for His faithfulness. We say, "Thus far the Lord has helped us, " with Prophet Samuel." (1 Sam 7:12). Unlike other countries like China, Iran, South Korea, and Indonesia, where the annual church growth rate is between 5-6 percent, Christianity in America is declining. The study, which analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, found that 4,500 churches in America closed in 2019, while about 3,000 new congregations were started. That means 86 churches in America close every week. There are many factors why the churches, especially in America and Western countries, are declining. Today I would like to share three challenges that caused the decline:
1. Secularism and liberalism. Secular means having no religious affinities. Liberal means having social and political views favoring progress and reformation, eliminating God and spiritual values. In America, the influence of secularism and liberalism is enormous. They are everywhere. As you see on the screen, only 10% of TV characters represent Conservative Perspective. Most of the TV News is liberal. In education, according to Jerry Bergman Ph.D., a professor for 45 years, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors has profoundly changed from 4 to 1 a few years ago to 17 to 1 today. For four years and more, those professors spend class time indoctrinating students with their views, often leftist or even socialist. As a result, many college students become liberal. They no longer believe in biblical teachings on creationism, sex, marriage, and salvation. They have no interest in attending church services. On Jan 15, 2019, Lifeway Research said, "Most teenagers drop out of church when they become young adults."
Therefore, many churches in America and western countries consist of only the old generation. And as the old generation one by one gone to be with the Lord, there is not enough young generation who replace them. That is why the church attendant is declining and eventually no longer can survive. Some years ago, I took a summer class in the Netherland, and I saw many beautiful churches were empty and had become museums or mosques.
We should win the young generation. Otherwise, the church will continue to decline. But how do we do it? Many Christian parents expect the church to teach their children about God and Christianity. Surely the church should give more attention to rich children and young people. But what can a church do for two hours a week for them? Not much! According to the Bible, it is parents' responsibility to teach their children. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, for example, shows how God commands and gives authority to parents to share their faith with their children. Proverbs 22:6 also says, "Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown, they will still do right." (CEV) The problem is many parents do not realize or know that it is their responsibility to teach their children about God and the right things. So, the church should teach and help parents raise their children in the Lord. Parents should spend more time talking with their children, praying for them and with them, and guiding them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When our children have a personal relationship with God, 'when they are grown, they will still do right."
2. Immorality. This relates to the previous challenge. When we do not put God in the center of our lives, we won't care about what the Bible teaches about morality. The churches in America and western countries face this challenge. Some time ago, when I shared this concern at a meeting, a pastor replied, "This is not new. In the biblical times, there was already immorality." He was right. Sexual sins have always been a challenge for God's people since biblical times. But there is something different in the 21st century. For thousands of years, most societies have viewed marriage as between one man and one woman. In the past, most people committed sexual sins secretly. Society couldn't accept adultery. The church called sexual relationships out of marriage sin.
But today, 30 countries legalize same-sex marriage. Every year more people support it. Most millennials or Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1996) and Z Generation (born between 1997 and 2012) support it. Many churches in America even perform a same-sex marriage. Living together without marriage, polyamory (the practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships, with the consent of all the people involved), and open marriage (a marriage in which both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others) have been widely accepted. As a result, evangelical churches that remain faithful to biblical teachings on sexuality and the definition of marriage are called haters, intolerant, homophobic, or transphobic people and face the risk of attack, even persecutions. Gradually, these remnants of the church who remain faithful to God and His word become smaller because "in the last days … people will be lovers of themselves, …, unholy, …, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, …, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (1 Timothy 3:1-4).