In 2008, Christians comprised 76 percent of U.S. adults, compared to about 77 percent in 2001 and about 86 percent in 1990. Researchers said the dwindling ranks of mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians, largely explains the shift. Over the last seven years, mainline Protestants dropped from just over 17 percent to 12.9 percent of the population. (March 9, 2009 Associated Press)
A brief portion of a story in the news today. The question we face is what do we make of this?
I find there are three ways we can respond as the people of God – the Church. One, we can bemoan the state of our world and shake our heads at how the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. We can look back to the past and declare that there was a time when people believed, and we can feel good about ourselves that we are not one of those people. Jesus tells a story like that – the religious man prays and points to the man who has done many wrong things and says, “Thank you Lord that I am not like him – I go to church, I give my time and my money.” What the religious man doesn’t realize is that the man is longing to be set free and that is his prayer, a prayer God deems more honorable. (see Luke 18:9-14)
Another option is to remain ignorant of what’s going on and simply work to make our faith and our religious life something that feels good to us. It is to say, “I’m just glad I have a church where I can go and meet God and find strength to make it through my day.” Not a bad thing to do, but not near what Jesus called us to do. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) To take up our cross is to do as Jesus did – to give our life for the sake of others. To do everything we can to help others find the grace and mercy and love of God – even if they don’t respond.
And that leads to option 3 – take hold of the call to follow Jesus and to continue what he did. His work is depicted in Luke chapter 15. A shepherd loses one sheep out of 100 – he gives all his energy to find that one. A woman loses a coin – not of great value in the bigger span of worldly wealth, but valuable to her – she does all she can and does not stop until that coin is found. A Father loses a son who runs off and blows his portion of the family’s wealth – when he returns to the family home the father runs to meet him and celebrates his return.
Jesus was all about doing everything he could to seek those who were far from God, and he called his followers to join him. The Holy Spirit moved in and through the followers of Jesus at Pentecost and they began to reach out beyond their own group to those who didn’t know or did not believe in the promise of life to be found in Jesus Christ.
There are more today who are disconnected from God then there were 19 years ago. What option will we choose? What hope do those people have if we take option 1 or 2? Who will be the ones to reach out beyond there safety zone and help those people discover the truth of the promise of life found in Jesus Christ?
If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?
Holy high five to you, Mike.