This past week a Pew Research released research data suggesting that if trends which began in the 1990s continue, by the year 2070 Christians will only be about 40% of the American population. Obviously, it is very hard to make good predictions about what will happen in 50 years. Things can change. Our nation could experience a revival, maybe a Third Great Awakening. But if that doesn’t happen, and if the current decline of Christianity keeps pace, we could see Christianity dip below 50%.
Why? Why has there been such a decline? From 1972 to 2020, the percentage of Americans who are Christians has fallen from 90% to 64%. There are many reasons for such a decline. Often we Christians tend to blame others for our failures. We say the decline is due to a “culture of death” in our society. Or it’s the fault of secular education. We blame Hollywood and the media; it’s television, internet, celebrity, and cell phones. It’s consumerism and wealth and sports. Probably all of the above factor into the reason at least somewhat. But I want us to turn the lens on American Christianity itself.
Is it possible that we American Christians, as Christianity is typically practiced in our country, need revival, just as much as the culture does? I think it is possible. It reminds me of the book Jim & Casper Go To Church. Jim is an evangelical Christian. Casper is an atheist. Together they visits churches across the country. 15 churches or so. A variety of shapes and sizes. Famous megachurches, middle size churches, no-name tiny churches. Independent churches and denominational. Informal worship and formal worship. At nearly every church, Casper, the atheist, asks Jim the Christian a question that haunts me, “Did Jesus really ask you to do this?”
The answer is almost always “No.” So much of what we call church and religion has been added on over the centuries. Buildings, produced worship services, Sunday School, events, paid staff like me, and on and on it goes. We have poured massive amounts of time, energy and money on Sunday-focused, church building-focused worship events. All the while, from 1972 to 2020 faith in Christ has fallen through the floor, and that decline is showing no signs of slowing down. Is it possible that Casper’s question is pointing us to another question, “What did Jesus actually tell us to do?”
This week on the blog, we’re going try to at least begin to answer that question by studying John 1:43-51. So keep that question in mind.
What did Jesus tell us to do? In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus teaches his disciples, and therefore us as well, not that our mission is to make church buildings in which to hold Sunday services. Instead, Jesus says our mission is to make disciples who are able to obey what he taught. We look to Jesus, then, as both our teacher and our model in the mission of being and making disciples. What did Jesus do to help his disciples become disciples who could obey him and make more disciples?
What methods, practices or habits did Jesus employ on Minute 1, Hour 1, and Day 1 with his disciples? In meeting those three men, we observed in the previous week’s blog posts how Jesus made disciples, as described in John 1:35-42, starting here. We saw Jesus doing three things: 1. using the spiritual practice of questioning, 2. inviting the men to “come and see,” and 3. giving Simon the nickname to lift his heart and mind to greater things.
This week on the blog, as we study John 1:43-51 we will continue observing how Jesus interacts with his disciples. Observing Jesus is so instructive for us because he will help us understand and practice how we can help other people become Jesus’ disciples.