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How to Stop The Decline of Christianity

Pew Research continues to report on the decline of Christianity in America. According to their polling, nearly a third of people raised in the Christian faith currently leave before turning 30 years of age, and an additional 7% do it later. On that trajectory, by 2070 (and probably much sooner), Christianity will become a minority religious faith in this country.

Having worked with churches and ministry organizations my entire life, I think a big reason for this decline is our obsession with BIG. Big evangelistic campaigns, large missions efforts, and massive projects. Think of how many conferences have themes like “Shake the Nations” or “Win the World.” One current campaign is spending $100 million with the goal of “Making Jesus the Biggest Name in Your City.”

All of these efforts are laudable, and I’ve been involved in plenty of them. However, here’s an idea:

Let’s just focus on reaching one person. That’s right. Just one.

When your goal is to reach an entire city, state, or to “shake the nations,” things get pretty impersonal. We can farm it out to professionals and produce TV commercials, billboards, and marketing strategies. But we’ve seen that done again and again, and we’re always back to the same result:

Christianity keeps declining.

In 2017, the General Social Survey revealed that only about 20% of Americans have spent time regularly with their neighbors, and a third say they’ve never interacted with them. A 2021 survey reported that 26% of Millennials don’t even know their neighbor’s name.

So maybe we start there. When was the last time you talked to a single person about Jesus? When was the last time you mentioned to your waiter or waitress that you came to the restaurant from church, and see where that conversation went?

I brought it up to a middle-aged UBER driver some time ago, and discovered he had actually been an evangelist himself in his twenties, but back then just couldn’t give up smoking. As a result, churches stopped calling him and he considered himself a failure, and hadn’t preached the gospel in more than twenty years.

We talked for nearly an hour during our drive from the airport, and by the time we reached my house, I’d made him realize that churches, revivals, and evangelistic campaigns were fine, but there were plenty of other ways he could be effective sharing the gospel. I encouraged him to get back out there in ministry and he could start with his UBER customers.

I’m all for the big campaigns and major evangelistic efforts. But maybe it’s time we tried something that’s been actually working since the days of the Early Church.

Who’s that one person you could reach this week? If each of us use reached one, it could actually do more than all the major evangelistic efforts combined.

Hey – it’s worth a shot…

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

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  1. I have passionately loved Jesus most of my life. But I have never loved going to church. It feels so fake and exclusive. ‘Messy’ people are not included in the reindeer games. All the leaders appear to be ‘perfect’. There is almost no vulnerability coming out of those on the podium or singing in front of us. ‘Messy’ people are confronted with nonsensical nonesense that says we just don’t ‘pray enough’ or that our faith ‘isn’t strong enough’. Blaming victims seems par for the course. Even mentioning these types of things to leadership leads to hurt feelings and avoidance.

    I feel like giving up church altogether. I agree with you that BIG is harmful. I think it is more harmful than you do. If churches treated everyone with equal respect and honor, this decline would not be happening. MORE vulnerability and sharing from the pulpit is needed. Stop presenting us with perfect, photoshopped images of you and your perfect family. Hire people who are fat, disabled, MESSY! Don’t make the rest of us somehow feel that only you measure up- because you don’t. None of us do. Admit that you have evil thoughts and do evil things- make us feel HUMAN. I am so saddened by this research and my heart sorrows. I do believe people are doing their best in churches …. but we always get it wrong. I can’t help but the future is in the Lord’s hands. Not in the church’s. Or the individual’s. This must be part of God’s Plan that will eventually bring Jesus to us and end this tired world.

    1. I wonder if you’ve been visiting the wrong churches. :-). Churches should be the EXPERTS at dealing with messy people, and the vast majority of churches I’ve attended have been fantastic. Don’t give up. There are some great ones out there….

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