What Should Christians Do in an Age of Declining Christianity?

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Monday, June 13, 2016

What Should Christians Do in an Age of Declining Christianity?


A recent article on Fox News website was entitled “A look at white Evangelical angst over declining clout.”


I don’t know about you, but there were at least three words in that headline that gave me pause, and that was even before I read the article.


The first was “white.” That raises the important question of whether white Evangelicals are reacting to the implications of the cultural moment in ways different from African-American, Latino, and Asian-American Evangelicals.


This is a discussion I think all Evangelicals need to have, and frankly, apart from raising the question, I cannot adequately explore it in this single commentary.


But there are two other words from that headline that I can begin to address in our remaining time today: “angst” and “clout.”


The article, which is in the form of a Q&A, begins by recounting facts that regular BreakPoint listeners are already familiar with: the decline in the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians and the increasing willingness of previously nominal Christians, especially in the “Bible Belt,” to say that they have no religious affiliation. It also cites “the fallout from the spread of LGBT rights and the growth of secularism.”


While I obviously share these concerns, as should you, our response should have nothing do with either “angst” or the loss of “clout.”


“Angst” comes from the German word associated with the state of being “afraid, anxious, or alarmed.” In English it’s used to describe a “feeling of acute but vague anxiety or apprehension.”


I run into this kind of angst all the time, especially on social media among my evangelical friends. Often, what I encounter goes beyond proper concern about cultural trends, giving way to a sense of hopelessness, fear, and more than a little anger. Evangelicals are beginning to see ourselves as a beleaguered minority.


And it would be silly to deny that what is driving at least some of these feelings is the loss of cultural and political influence—in other words, clout—especially in this election year.


What’s lost in all the angst, and frankly, in much of our cultural discourse, is perspective. We need to remember that God’s timing is not ours. And we know, or at least we should know, that God’s purposes will always unfold in human history, but always in His time, not ours. He is not bound by news or election cycles.


Paul told the Galatians that God sent his Son when the fullness of time had come. He didn’t have to tell them that God alone had determined when the time was full.


And remember, that “time” didn’t exactly look promising: His ancient people were subjects of pagan oppressors and lived far from the centers of influence. Furthermore, the path He chose to restore all things to Himself was, as we know, not what His people were expecting or even wanted.


Of course, with hindsight we know they were mistaken. Will people looking back on us think the same thing? Will they ask about us “How did they miss the things God was doing in their midst—the things that should have given them peace and assurance in the midst of trying times?”


Well, my prayer is that we won’t. We face real challenges, and we need to be clear and wise about how we address them, especially when it comes to preparing future generations. And yet, all that we do must rest in and be shaped by the certainty that Christ has risen from the dead and that the restoration of all things will happen.


A recent interviewer, upon hearing me say that, said, “Well, you’re an optimist.” Not at all. I have no intention of optimistically downplaying the seriousness of the cultural moment. Rather, as Peter called us to in his epistle, I want to be defined by the hope that Christ will fulfill His word, even if we don’t know how or when. We don’t need to. We only need to, as Chuck Colson liked to say, “stay at our posts and do our duty.” The rest is up to God.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: June 13, 2016