| “Let’s Be Real!”|
I wonder if any of us saw it, and if we saw it, how many of us took the time to read the article published by the Post and Courier on Sunday, October 20, 2019. In big letters, it began “Poll, More Americans eschew religious affiliation.” When I see articles like this, and I see them with more frequency than I like, I read them with interest, but also caution. We all realize polls can be used, and misused, to promote any view an author has a particular bias towards. The author of this article was David Crary (Associated Press), and the poll was conducted by the Pew Research Center. The data being cited came from telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019. I want to share some statistics cited, and then provide you some of my thoughts to consider, and perhaps act upon. Interesting statistics:
• 65% of Americans now describe themselves as Christian (down from 77% in 2009),
• 26% of Americans describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular,”
• all categories of the religiously unaffiliated population – often referred to as the “nones” grew in magnitude,
• 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,”
• more Americans say they attend religious services a few times a year or less, and there is a steady decline in the rates of attendance at religious services,
• Americans gave about 3% of their disposable income to churches in 1968, and less than 2.2% in 2016.
Now, those are statistics taken from the general population, and might not correlate exactly to a specific denomination or faith group, but we can suspect they would be close. With that in mind, it doesn’t sound very promising for the Christian faith and Church.
One of the truisms that always comes to mind when I read statistics and polls about the health of the Christian church is this: the church is always one generation away from extinction. That truism underscores the importance for every Christian to both practice and share their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And this reminds me of the old story that “anybody could have done it; somebody should have done it, but nobody did it, and so it didn’t get done!”
With that being said, you might think these are pessimistic times. And yes, one could look at it that way, but let us not be pessimistic about our Christian faith nor our church. We simply need to realize and accept it is time for us to “get real.” We need to acknowledge what we are doing to contribute to those statistics and what we can do to reverse them as we take seriously our Christian calling to share the gospel with others.
• We must first acknowledge the truth that being a follower of Jesus Christ is not just like being a member of a civic club or social organization. Being a Christian is far more challenging, demanding, and rewarding. It is to say that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our life.
• Acknowledging Jesus as Lord invites us to then live our life in a way that shows the world who it is that we follow. Sometimes this will cause us to live in contrast to society, but remember, we are training and living for an eternity in heaven, not just an event or a day in this world.
• We live this way by attending worship regularly, because this is where the body of Christ gathers, and the sacraments are celebrated. Worship is where we publicly praise God. Worship is where we are fed and nourished for the coming week.
• We live this way by knowing Christ, which happens when we read the Bible, attend Bible studies, and spend time praying.
• We live this way by sharing Christ, which happens when our life reflects the Jesus we know in such a way that others notice and are attracted to the difference that exists in us.
• We live this way as we willingly share the good news of God’s love and salvation made known to us through his Son, Jesus.
• We live this way as we support the work of the church through our time and resources.
Those previously quoted statistics are only as good as the people polled. The question for us to consider is this: if asked, would our answers be different than the general population? I hope so. But regardless, it is time for Christians and the Church to come to life as we “get real” with the challenge to share Christ with all the world, and in so doing, change it. It’s not an overwhelming obstacle, because it starts with you and me and the one person we shall encounter today.
“Let’s be real” as we become the generation that changes the statistics and offers God’s promise to those living today and tomorrow. Let’s become the “somebody” that took this challenge seriously. I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we gather in worship on All Saints Sunday.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +