As the religious landscape of America continues to change and those identifying with faith continues to decline, the fear of standing out as a Christian is growing.
And that is impacting evangelism efforts.
There’s a greater apprehension among those who do count themselves as Christians to not only share their faith but to even appear differently from the rest of society, according to Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. They’re too afraid to stand for beliefs that might be seen as offensive to others in a diversifying culture.
“I believe in the politically correct, politically charged climate of our culture today, believers are afraid to take a stand and to look different for fear of being accused of being intolerant toward others. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in American history where Christians are afraid to speak biblical truth in love out of fear of retribution,” Rice told The Christian Post.
“Many Christians have just assimilated into the culture of the world so they won’t ‘offend’ anyone.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles “Chuck” Kelley Jr., who earlier in October announced he will be retiring from his position, makes a similar point in his recently released book, Fuel the Fire.
Kelley laments that Christians are simply blending in with the secular world.
Overchurched to underchurched
While it can be argued that the older generations might have been “overchurched,” the reality today is that some people have “never stepped foot in a church,” said Noel Heikkinen, lead pastor at Riverview Church in Lansing, Michigan.
Many people in the current generation don’t have the church experience that previous generations were exposed to.
As a result, “their view of Christianity is what they have seen in pop culture, and what we are seeing even more so is that it’s derived from social media,” Heikkinen explained to CP.
He said that for a lot of younger people, “their whole perception of Christianity is not about the Gospel, or Jesus, or any of that.”
Unlike previous generations, young people today “have very much an ‘a la carte’ approach to spirituality,” meaning that they want to “pick and choose what strands of their spirituality are important to them,” the Michigan pastor said.
“Even if they hear a preacher say Scripture has to be the ultimate authority in their lives, there is always going to be an asterisk” next to that, and they will turn to their “own truth” if they hear something they disagree with, he noted.
For many young people, “there is no real truth that lies outside of their own personal experiences, biases and assumptions.”
“The self becomes the arbitrator of personal truth; personal truth becomes greater than absolute truth,” Heikkinen said.
Rice also believes that the number of people in the U.S. who have never heard of Jesus Christ is growing.
“We are seeing and hearing of more stories right here in the U.S. of people coming to faith in Christ after hearing about Jesus for the first time. However, I do agree, in America, we often encounter those who are ‘disillusioned’ with ‘religion’ altogether,” Rice said.
Christianity in decline
Many polls have painted a complex picture of the religious landscape in America. One overarching trend that has emerged in most surveys and analyses is that the proportion of those identifying with Christianity, especially young people, is shrinking.
A study by Gallup in April found that while 71 percent of Americans identified with a Protestant denomination back in 1955, the percentage decreased to less than half (47 percent) of the population in 2017.
Roman Catholics retained a more stable rate of identification, making up 22 percent of the population in 2017, compared to 24 percent in 1955.
Young people were found to be one of the chief drivers of the rising “nonreligious” demographic, with 33 percent of those aged 21 to 29 stating that they follow no religion.
J. Warner Wallace, a cold case detective, author and senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, chronicled more than 50 similar surveys back in January and concluded: “Fewer people claim a Christian affiliation than ever before, and those who claim no religious affiliation are the fastest growing group in America.”
Researcher George Barna of the American Culture & Faith Institute noted, following a survey of 9,273 American adults in November 2017, which found that only 31 percent of adults identify as born-again Christians, that faith is undergoing a “substantial challenge.”
“The Church at-large is not likely to grow in the future unless some fundamental changes in practice are made,” Barna warned.
The survey found that people are most likely to accept Christ as Savior before they finish high school, with two out of every three individuals who say they are born again revealing they made the choice before the age of 18.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stoyan Zaimov