Fear Not: The Faith of the Faithful Stands Firm
Society tells faithful Christians we're a dying breed. But we know that's not true.
Hardly a day goes by without someone reminding those of us who are conservative, Bible-believing, followers of Jesus that we’re on the wrong side of history. That we’re out of touch with society. That we’re a dying breed. That soon enough, the doors of our congregations will close and we will be extinct. Yet study after study and anecdote after anecdote say the exact opposite. The truly committed are thriving. The “progressive” liberals are dying.
Last November, a major study was published in the Sociological Science journal by Landon Schnabel and Sean Bock. The authors concluded that America, in general, was become more secular and less religious (similar to trends in other countries). But:
We show that rather than religion fading into irrelevance as the secularization thesis would suggest, intense religion — strong affiliation, very frequent practice, literalism, and evangelicalism — is persistent and, in fact, only moderate religion is on the decline in the United States.
What do you know! It is moderate religion — the self-styled progressive faith — that is on the decline in America. In contrast, that which the authors call intense religion — “strong affiliation, very frequent practice, literalism, and evangelicalism” — is persistent.
They “conclude that intense religion in the United States is persistent and exceptional in ways that do not fit the secularization thesis.”
Red Hot vs. Lukewarm
But this should not surprise us. It has been the pattern for decades (and more). It makes sense. Those who truly believe the Bible is God’s Word are the ones who truly experience His life-changing power. Therefore their faith is more vibrant. Therefore their faith is more easily sustained and spread.
Those who hold to a watered-down view of the Scriptures create a religion in which human beings decide which passages of the Bible are holy and which are not. A religion in which Jesus is made to conform to society rather than society made to conform to Him. Why give yourself to something like this? And how can it possibly transform you? Who wants to buy a medicine that doesn’t really cure?
It is true that numbers and growth are not always indicators of spiritual vitality. Big is not always better.
But when the unending liberal mantra alleges that we are spiritual Neanderthals and that if we want to grow, we need to abandon our historic convictions, it is meaningful when scientific studies confirm what we know to be true: “Moderate” religion, rather than fervent faith, is on the decline.
Those who are red hot will continue to burn bright until others catch fire around them. Those who are flickering and lukewarm will soon burn out.
What America’s Largest Churches Tell Us
That’s why it was not surprising at all to read that none of the 100 largest churches in America are “LGBT-affirming.” And who knows how many of the 1,000 largest are “LGBT-affirming” — or of the 10,000 largest?
Again, numbers do not prove everything. But if the liberal argument was really true, you’d think the numbers would be the exact opposite. Apparently these mega-churches didn’t get the memo that they were all dying and shrinking! (My guess would be that none of the largest house church networks are LGBT-affirming either.)
I’ve had the privilege of speaking at several of the largest churches in America and around the world. I’ve often been asked to address LGBT issues. They want to understand how to reach out to the LGBT community with sensitivity and love. But they understand that grace and truth go hand in hand. And they understand that the Scriptures are clear when it comes to homosexual practice and the meaning of marriage. God sets the standards, not us.
Reports of Our Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
This past weekend, I spoke at a large Christian conference for young adults, with close to 20,000 in attendance. They spent hours every day in worship and eagerly listened to the teaching of the Word.
At the request of the conference leaders, I did two breakout sessions. One was on reaching the LGBT community with compassion. The other was on why we needed to resist LGBT activism. And remember: while there were hundreds of leaders in attendance at the conference, the vast majority of attendees were young adults.
I was told to expect 1,000-1,500 in my sessions, since there were multiple meetings taking place at the same time. Instead, in a venue that held perhaps 3,000, hundreds and hundreds had to be turned away each day. In fact, the ushers shut the doors to the meeting on the second day more than 10 minutes before we were scheduled to start. There was simply no room for all the people.
Somehow these young people didn’t get the memo that: 1) my beliefs were outdated and primitive; 2) their generation had already moved on when it came to LGBT issues; and 3) only bigoted and hateful people believed what they believed.
Instead, they were passionate, they were serious, they were compassionate, and they were spiritual. And at the end of each talk, they lined up to ask questions — the first day, I stayed more than 90 minutes answering questions — all of them in deep agreement with the presentations and wanting to make a positive difference in the world in which they lived. And several testified to having come out of homosexual practice, thanking me for the stands we were taking.
All this reminds me of Mark Twain’s response after reading his obituary while in London: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”