[featured_image]Martin Robinson believes that the Church in the Western world finds itself in deep crisis. Not only is there a fundamental decline in church membership and attendance, but something more fundamental has been taking place in the second half of the twentieth century. He notes, however, that “the difficulties encountered by the church in the West do not reflect the global position of the church. Far from it. The worldwide church has demonstrated astonishing life and vigour in precisely the same period that the Western church has suffered reversal and decline.” (Robinson and Smith, Invading Secular Space, 2003, 17)
There is a scary future ahead if Christians in America fail to understand the times in which they are living and fail to embody the mission and message of Jesus. Imagine this potential scene if we do not:
European nations have truly become post-Christian nations. Their great cathedrals and church buildings once were filled with people, but now they sit almost empty on Sunday mornings and serve as tourist attractions. Far more people go through them sightseeing than actually worship there. We shouldn’t think that we’re about such a thing happening here. With the increasing dropout rate of people in emerging generations, it could be our destiny that in thirty or forty years, all of our recently constructed megachurch buildings, which are now filled with people, will end up as virtually empty tourist attractions. I bet in Europe they never guessed that was their future, and we shouldn’t be so overly confident that it won’t happen here. (Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church, 2007, 16)
Missional Christianity is absent in much of America today. There is a direct parallel between each Missional Distinctive and the absence of Missional Christianity in America.
Because the Church in the United States has abandoned these distinctives, it has become less than God intended the Church to be. According to Ephesians, the Church “should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:12) that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). There may be glimpses of this description in local churches, but the disheartening reality is that the Church in America is dying, decaying, fragmented, dysfunctional, marginalized, plateaued, and internally focused.
The correlation between the condition of Christianity in America and the abandonment of biblical distinctives is seen in the following chart:
Missional Distinctive – The U.S. Church is
Sent by Jesus – Dying and Declining
With the Cross – Infertile and Dysfunctional
In Community – Fractured and Fragmented
To Every Culture – Marginalized
For the King and His Kingdom – Internally Focused
What is the state of the Church in America? It does not look hopeful. Sally Morgenthaler reports the following statistics:
Despite what we print in our own press releases, the numbers don’t look good. According to 2003 actual attendance counts, adult church-going is at 18 percent nationally and dropping. Evangelical attendance (again, actual seat-numbers, not telephone responses) accounts for 9% of the population, down from 9.2% in 1990. Mainline attendance accounts for 3.4% of the national population, down from 3.9% the previous decade Of the 3,098 counties in the United States, 2,303 declined in church attendance. (Morganthaler, “Windows in Caves and Other Things We Do with Perfectly Good Prisms,” Fuller Seminary Theology News and Notes (Spring 2005)—quoted in Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 2006, 35)
Will you join me in praying for the Church in America?
Will you encourage churches, pastors, and believers to adopt missional thinking and behaviors?
Will you align yourself with the redemptive mission of Jesus and be a missionary in your neighborhood and in your zip code?