The headline screamed a staggering truth, “Study says Protestants drop below 50 percent in U. S.” Yes, for the first time in the history of the United States, Protestants do not make up the majority. Some softening of this fact is that non-denominational Christians can no longer be categorized as Protestants. Amazingly, there are no Protestants on the U. S. Supreme Court and, for the first time, there are no Protestants on the Republican presidential ticket.
The most telling statistic released by the Pew Forum on Religions and Public Life is the rise in the number of people who say they have no religious affiliation at all. The number has increased over the last five years from 15 to 20 percent. This number has dramatic impact politically. Those with no religious affiliation support abortion rights and gay marriage at a much higher rate. Simply stated, those who claim no religious affiliation strongly tend to embrace liberal approaches to life.
The impact of these facts is reason for Bible-believing individuals and Christ-centered believers to stop and take note. We have all watched American society slowly change. One does not need to go back to the founders of our nation to find a strong and vibrant Protestant community. Indeed, for most of us who grew up in Oklahoma, we can well remember when the church dominated our communities. Schools actually bent in respect to the church; worship times were protected from school activities.
The general tone at that time in society was Christian. Christian worldview and thought dominated every part of the culture. Beginning in the middle of the last century, the tide began to change. The move to push Christianity from the public arena into the backstreet began to gain momentum. Public opinion began to turn to more liberal views on abortion and a whole plethora of moral and ethical issues. Once the ball started down the slippery slope, it was hard to slow. Today, there is increased disdain for conservative Christianity and the worldview it holds.
For many of us who have travelled to Western Europe across the years, we see America hurtling toward the cold and empty Christianity found there. Heartbreaking would be my word for the coldness and emptiness found in Europe that now seems to be stooping its way into our beloved America.
This heartbreak describes the downfall and demise of America’s culture. Some would say it is much harder to describe the way back to a Christian society—I disagree. The way back is clear and uncomplicated and is not found in the White House or Congress, though having the right people in place would not be a bad thing. The impact of returning to Christianity in America, or anywhere else, sets squarely on the church.
Cultural Christianity has become far too familiar to the church. The church looks too much like the world. Worship lacks energy and divine-human encounter is far too occasional. Living faith has been lost in culturally and politically correct religious activity.
So what must we do if the church is the place to turn the tide? Authentic repentance bathed in the grace and love of God is at the beginning—nothing less than a sweep of the cleansing fires of the Holy Spirit followed by a filling of the Spirit that infuses life into the worship and service of the church. When the church again becomes a dynamic place where people regularly meet and worship the living God, changes will come to Main Street, Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The backstreets of sin will be impacted as well.
Don’t believe me? Just read about some of the great moves of God’s Spirit in the Great Awakenings. Everything changes when the church changes. “Holy Spirit of the Living God, please fall fresh on us.”