“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 17:6 ESV
As I teach rhetoric classes, it amazes me how much more I have to explain every year. College students know little or nothing of America’s founders. For nearly every speech or book we read, I have to provide more and more background information because they don’t know basic history. Who Patrick Henry was. What happened at the Alamo. How Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler and fantasized that he had secured “peace for our time.” Most don’t get basic allusions to the Bible. They know a little about Christ, but nothing about Moses, Daniel, or Paul. That not only means that much of Western literature is a closed door to them, but so are the basic foundations of Western Civilization, civilization built on Christianity.
More than ever today, the Gospel offends those who want to pick and choose from its truths. A student’s essay I read the other day mentioned intolerance in society today like what is “in the Bible.”
In an article on CNN’s website, Ed Stetzer reports that the statistics show “a long, slow (but accelerating) decline of (mostly) nominal Christianity. However, the percentage of [serious] Christians has remained relatively steady, with some decline.” People who are “cultural Christians”–Christians because they are not something else, or because a parent came from a Christian tradition–are signing out and declaring themselves “unaffiliated.”
It’s true that many who attended church decades ago did so out of habit or because it was a good place to make business connections. These people no longer see the value in getting up on Sunday morning and passing faith down to their children. Eight years ago more Americans could name the ingredients in a Big Mac more accurately than they could list the Ten Commandments. There is little evidence to indicate that trend has turned around in the meantime.
Hostility building in our country toward our faith may be a short-lived trend or it may be a long march into darkness. We must realize that the level of acceptance to basic Christian ideas may never again be as high as it is right now.
We still have the opportunity to turn our nation around if we respond to this trend while we still can. Our response must be love for God, each other, and those outside the Church.
According to Pew, there is reason to be optimistic about those who remain in our pews, but only because the number of serious churchgoers is declining at a slower rate than that of nominal believers.
One glimmer is that Christians of various traditions are claiming the title ‘evangelical’. “Half of self-identified Christians described themselves this way in 2014, up from 44 percent in 2007.” That includes significant percentages of Catholics and Orthodox and an overwhelming percentage of those from “historically black Protestant churches.” Here is some common ground.
These traditions already agree with each other about basic doctrines such as the truth of scripture, the Trinity, the sacrificial death of Christ, His bodily resurrection, and His imminent return. Serious Christ followers come from various traditions. We frequently decide not to recognize each other. Thereby we dim the light of the dark path the world is following.
But we are the Church that began by turning “the world upside down.”
The Book of Acts provides the account of Paul and Silas, who incurred the wrath of the authorities for turning the world upside down. The authorities were upset because the Church was garnering converts.
The American Church should not be shrinking. Much of the world has gotten spiritually fat and gone to sleep. They cannot see their need for Christ. We have the answer to their needs, but many of us are fat and fast asleep as well.
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