The statistics vary from poll to poll and study to study, but all agree on this: church attendance is not increasing in America. It is either staying steady or declining. Evangelical Christianity is not on the rise. Several studies in the past few years have indicated that at least 80 percent of all church growth, including and especially the megachurches, is “transfer” growth, not evangelism. In other words, we’re merely moving bodies from one church to another. Too often in today’s consumer oriented culture this simply means many smaller churches in a particular community “go out of business” and merge into a bigger church.
At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, it seems that much of the growth in some churches has come from a seeker-sensitive mentality that works to give people anything and everything they want. The program of the church is built on “felt needs” and desires. You do a survey, find out what people want and you give it to them in order to fill seats with warm bodies. It’s the Wal-Mart syndrome. When Wal-Mart comes to town most of the “Mom-and-Pop” shops end up closing—they simply can’t compete. Today’s megachurches can have this same monopolizing effect.
Do you see the line connecting this “dot” with the article lamenting our narcissistic culture? Is it possible that in our zeal to build bigger and bigger churches we have unknowingly fed the narcissism of our age? Is it possible we have become part of the problem rather than leaders in administering the cure? For centuries the cry of the Church was “come and die with us.” Too often today our battle-cry seems to be more like, “come and let us entertain you.” For a vast swath of evangelicalism, the true meaning of the Cross has been lost.
Finally, I saw a connection with the article on the Pentagon and the growing Muslim population. Islam is growing in America, evangelical Christianity is not. We’ve got far more megachurches than ever before, but we’re not reaching more people—just re-arranging the ones we’ve already reached. Maybe it’s time to stop complaining and worrying about how Muslims are taking away our rights and start trying to reach them with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The conclusion in all of this for me is that it begins and ends with the Church—the one institution the Lord Jesus promised to build such that the gates of Hades will not overcome it (cf. Matt. 16:18). The way to combat narcissism and promote real evangelism in the culture is for the Church to more vitally believe and live out the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
This, of course, is the best news story of the day.