In NZ a census was recently conducted with one of the questions asking people about their religious affiliation. Since census collecting began in NZ in 1851, the percentage affiliating with Christianity has always been above 50%. In 2013, for the first time, that changed. This year’s census information has not yet been collated but it is expected that only around 40% of people in NZ will now call themselves Christian. There is a similar trend in countries like England, Australia and U.S.A. This begs the question: Why are so many people in the Western world abandoning Christianity?
Is this God’s problem or ours?
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has placed eternity in our hearts. God has not changed and never will. He still desires people to know him because knowing him is knowing eternal life (John 17:3). He is also not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance. So if the problem is not with God, it must be us. But is it Christians or non-believers who need to change?
To most non-believers, Christians have the reputation of being hypocritical, irrelevant and judgemental. It is hard to disagree with them because the church has been so inward focused that those non-believers obviously haven’t had anyone who truly looks like Jesus go to them and show them otherwise.
I think Mahatma Gandhi summed it up best when he said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Christians don’t look like Christ because they’re not doing what he did.
What did he do? Acts 10:38 says that he “went around doing good.” The key is that he went. It doesn’t say he stayed indoors, waiting for someone to come to him so he could help them. A fisherman doesn’t go out fishing then yell to the fish to come into his boat or pray for God to ‘place a desire’ in the heart of the fish to jump into his boat.
The church is a body, with Jesus being the head. A body has to breathe in and breathe out if it wants to stay alive. If it doesn’t, it will need to be revived. Another way of putting this, is that it will need revival.
Home churches are not exempt from this.
When we gather together and encourage one another, pray together and read scripture, we are breathing in to strengthen one another. Those things are all part of God’s design for us and I love meeting with like-minded believers. However, if that is all we do, we will become stale after a period of time because no one is breathing out. We breathe out by sharing our faith with others. This could be done by going on the streets to specifically pray for people. It could be by feeding orphans and widows in a foreign country and talking to them about Jesus. Or it could be done whenever you are at the supermarket, petrol station or shopping mall. It is simply expecting God to give you an opportunity to share his love to a lost and dying world at all places and all times.
People are living in darkness and they don’t know how where to turn.
If you go outside on a sunny day and turn a torch on, you barely notice the light from the torch. If you take that same torch into the deepest darkest cave and turn it on, that light will have far greater impact.
Instead of shining the torch in a bright place, we need to find the darkest place we can think of and go there to let our light shine. Yes, it may be cold, smelly and uncomfortable but that’s where Holy Spirit is most active. Holy Spirit is known as a comforter in many Bibles. There’s not much point having a comforter if you’re already comfortable!
I used to be in the territorial forces with the NZ army. This meant I had to go on training exercises on one weekend every month. Our country is not involved in any wars so we did a lot of training but no fighting. After three years of training I had learned how to take apart a rifle with my eyes closed, fire a machine gun, sew buttons on my clothes and keep my room tidy along with many other disciplines. I noticed after the first two years that I had already learned everything an infantryman needed to know. I was fully trained. I stopped paying attention to the training because I already knew enough. I couldn’t handle hearing another corporal teach me how to pack my bag correctly or how to put my tent up. I was ready for action, but I wasn’t seeing any, so I left the training field.
The church is a lot like an army.
The only difference between an army and the church, is that the church is in a war with an unseen enemy. The devil is quite happy if we keep training for battle but never confront him and destroy his works like Jesus did. I’ve noticed that the ones who are consistently out in the field (sharing their faith) don’t talk a lot about things like the colour of the wallpaper, our Hebraic roots or end times prophecies. Knowing about those things pales in comparison to knowing how to share our faith with others and actually putting it into practice.
Churches fail because they become insular.
Most churches don’t reach out to the world to make disciples. This applies to both institutional churches and home churches. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Those words are still true today. We need more labourers in the harvest field who GO and make disciples. Jesus never intended us to stagnate in one place. We should be going to other people to share the news about Jesus and teaching them to do the same.
To turn around the fall in Christianity in the Western world, we need to be more committed to sharing our faith wherever we go.
If you are interested in doing this but aren’t sure how, feel free to get in touch with me through my website and I will either go with you, or put you in touch with someone who can.