Guest Post by Ikki Soma
Have you heard the quote, truth is stranger than fiction? Well, recently I read The Last Christian by David Gregory. It is a fictional book, but what it depicts could eventually be TRUE in America (so perhaps in this book, fiction is truer than truth). It is a page turning thriller in which a Christian missionary emerges from the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea in the year 2088 and finds that Christianity has all but disappeared from America. The church buildings in America have now become like the nearly empty church buildings in Europe today.
All the recent stats and projections seem to indicate that what is written in The Last Christian WILL eventually come to pass in America. Currently, about 20% of Americans are a part of a local church. By the year 2020, it is projected that less than 15% of Americans will be part of a local church (over 85% of the over 300 million Americans will be unchurched). Today, America is the third LARGEST mission field in the world (behind India and China). My wife and I know most of the neighbors on our street (about 20 families/homes) and only two families are a regular part of a local church (the Collin’s and the Barrick’s). So even on our typical Bible belt street, less than 15% are a part of a local church. It is estimated that only 1 in 10 Christian college students are a part of a local church. And 70% of people raised in the local church as children and youth will fall away as young adults (some come back, most don’t).
So here are the five trends outlined in The Last Christian that lead to the disappearance of Christianity in America:
(1) Scientific trends that promoted a materialistic worldview – Rather than confront the theory of evolution intelligently, Christians continued to exercise blind faith. The Intelligent Design proponents did not garner respect from the scientific community (too little too late) and thus their cries fell on deaf ears (and it seemed like they were pushing a religious agenda, rather than pushing a scientific agenda).
(2) The rejection of the evangelical culture war by the larger society as secularism’s grip on society tightened – This came mostly through Christians desire to influence the culture through politics (like the Moral Majority). Rather than putting their effort into making disciples of Jesus Christ, Christians put their efforts into swaying people towards their political agendas.
(3) The backlash against religion in general due to Islamic fundamentalism – After 9/11 Americans became more and more suspicious of anyone who claimed allegiance to a specific faith. Christians were seen as fundamentalists and extremists.
(4) The rejection of the notion of absolute truth and morality as postmodernism became entrenched in the culture – The Bible claim to be truth and God to be true became increasingly unpopular. People who held to absolute truth were viewed as ignorant and narrow minded (how can anyone with half a brain believe in absolute truth?). Christians were not able to articulate their beliefs (or did not believe in absolute truth themselves).
(5) The church’s lack of distinctiveness relative to the culture around it, thus diminishing its potential appeal – This last trend seems to be so true. Christians were not distinct from the non-Christians around them (so there was no appeal to become a Christian). And that’s what the stats seem to show (divorce, having abortions, cheating on taxes, values, how we spend our money, etc). If Christian claim to have the Holy Spirit living inside of them and to be born-again, then why aren’t Christians more distinct from their “dead” neighbors?