Summary: Over 31 million Americans are part of this exodus from the church, Samford said, citing a Barna Group study.
Why 31 Million Have Abandoned Their Faith In America
(Conquering conflict, crisis and circumstances)
Some American Christians have lost their confidence in church, but that they also have lost their faith in the Bible, the church and Christian beliefs, said the author, who was addressing attendants at the annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association in Portland, Ore.
Over 31 million Americans are part of this exodus from the church, Samford said, citing a Barna Group study.
"Any business that is losing 31 million customers is going out of business," he told a room of Christian journalists and editors. "[It] is the greatest crisis among Christians today in the U.S., Canada and some parts of Europe…We must break the silence in our publications.”
Americans are afraid of pain, conflict or crisis of any kind. Not so with the apostle Paul. Instead of complaining as he was chained to a Roman prisoner for more than two years he wrote, "There is encouragement in Christ, consolation of love, fellowship of Spirit, affection and compassion. Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in Spirit, intent of one purpose. Regard one another as more important than yourself. Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:1-5)
Most interpersonal conflicts stem from turmoil, aggravation and stress within people. Jesus said, "It is not what is on the outside of person that defiles them but what comes out of their heart: hate, envy, greed, and jealousy." Most conflicts do not arise out of conflict of ideas but assumed hurts, violation of personal rights or a supposed threatening of one’s self-esteem. Basically, conflict is rooted in sin, selfishness and the projecting of our unresolved feelings and expectations on to others.
The following are a few solutions to the 31 million who are abandoning their faith and affiliation with church fellowships in America:
1. FAULTY OR DISTORTED PERCEPTIONS
Many Americans are deluded by the victimization or poor me syndrome that pervades our society. With the apostle Paul you see none of that. Chained to a Roman prison guard the apostle writes about all the benefits, blessings and rich resources He has in Christ. (Phil. 2:1,2) He even warns his audience to not complain, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit... Do all things without grumbling or questioning or doubting or complaining or fault finding toward God or others. That you may show yourself to be blameless and guileless as lights in the dark and perverse world. (Phil. 2:14,15)
Paul’s mantra was, "DON’T WHINE BUT SHINE."
Most of time I look at how much I’ve accomplished and improved over the years, but some look at me and see how much I should have done and how I left to be more loving, kind and cheery. Both perceptions are only half true and the cause of most conflicts. Paul chose to focus on the part of the glass that was full instead of the aspects of life that were less than ideal. Why not us?
2. CONFLICT OF PERSONALITIES
Some people are action oriented and want to see results. Others are more deliberate and want to make sure everything is done just right before proceeding ahead. One person will chafe at the lack of progress while the other will shout, "You are manipulating and using me." God designed both personalities to work in a complementary fashion instead of an adverarial one. Too many people quickly throw in the towel and quit. However, God’s help is at hand in the person of the Holy Spirit who mediates conflict if we will pray, worship and approach our issues under His control. He is blender of all personalities through Spirit led leadership. Ask God to let you find a way to allow the Spirit of God to find a middle ground in cooperating, collaborating and emphasizing mutual goals that can bring out the best in each person’s contribution.
3. CONFLICTS COME FROM FAULTY THINKING
Alan Redpath, who Pastored the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago had to mediate a particularly rancorous conflict between two rival factions in his church. He decided that by following the THINK formula they could politely agreed to disagree on non-essentials while agreeing on the essentials. He had them sign the following contract with each other:
T- Say, talk and work only on the basis of what is true.
H - Say, talk and work only on the things that are helpful to the goals of the church.
I - Say, talk and work only on things that will provide inspiriation for the edification, enrichment and evangelism ministries of the church
N - Say, talk and work only on things that the leaders of the church regard as necessary
K - Say, talk and work on projects that exhibit Godly kindness - (Rom 2:4) "Do not think lightly of the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, knowing that the kindness of God leads us to repentance.