Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Rumor of the Church's Demise is Premature

     Mark Twain, storyteller and author, was reportedly thought to be in poor health.  A newspaper reporter inquired about him and a rumor began to spread that he had died.  Nothing was ever published about this but when Mark Twain heard the rumor, he quipped, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."  In fact, it was his cousin who was very ill.  This happened one other time after this to Mark Twain who must have wondered if people really wanted him dead and buried.  However, he was able to make light of this mistaken information.
     In a similar fashion, I read an article in the Tampa Bay Times (Sunday, August 28, 2016) concerning the dying of white Christian America.  A book written by Robert P. Jones entitled, "The End of White Christian America" was the subject of this article which was an interview with this author.  With numbers declining in many mainline protestant churches (Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian USA), the author points to the dwindling number of white Christians in churches.  Part of this is due to the demographic changes in our country and the increasing number of immigrants who now make up our population.  Other influences include liberalism which has taken these denominations far from their conservative roots.  Likewise, there are many young millennials who do not identify with any faith today and frequently drift in and out of church.
     Culture is another factor according to the author.  The rise of militant LBGT influence on marriage as well as other issues have also served to create division within church bodies.  The author concludes his interview by saying this of his book:  "I begin the book with an obituary for White Christian America and I conclude the book with a eulogy."  Now, if everything ended here, we might want to join in the mourning along with this author.  However, we have a much different picture painted for us in Scripture.
     According to Matthew, the Lord was questioning his disciples and asking them what people were saying about Him.  They answered Him, and then, Peter spoke up clearly declaring that Jesus was the Christ...the Son of the Living God.  Our Lord answered and said:  "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). Jesus made it clear that upon this truthful confession He would build His church.  He went even further when He said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church.  Despite the view of this author or even society at large, the rumors of the church's demise are premature.
     Yes, I understand that the author was pointing to statistics as well as the aging "Boomer" population that has attended church with regularity.  However, Jesus said that heaven and earth may pass away but His Words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).  When He says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, we can rest assured of its permanence.  We also have to keep in mind that church may take
different forms from what we have known in the past.  For example, in China and other nations where the Christian faith is not acceptable, many house churches have sprung up.  Reports say that the church is growing more rapidly under persecution in these countries than in nations that have "freedom of religion."
     What we must remember in these days where it seems that culture is moving farther away from the values of the Christian faith is that God is still at work to do His good will and pleasure.  He will accomplish all that His Word has said He will do.  He has sent a Savior to redeem those whom He has called to be His own, and He is MORE than able to keep all who are committed to Him.  Therefore, let Satan shake his fist while authors write of the church's demise.  But remember, the Enemy never expected Jesus to rise from the dead breaking the curse of sin and death.  When we read the end of the Bible, we know who wins...even our Lord and His bride the church.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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