Future Challenges to American Christianity – My Response

After a very busy week that included a 13 mile run in 90+ heat (with super high humidity), Homecoming Revival, two term papers, and a belated anniversary trip with my wife, I’m ready to offer my response to the question I posted last week.

 What is the most important challenge(s) you believe American Christianity will be facing in the next fifty years?

The next fifty years will undoubtedly bring significant changes and challenges to the contemporary church. One of the challenges specific to America will be that of missions. The trend of spiritual decline, which is already evident in our nation, coupled with the rapidly expanding world population will make global evangelization a tremendous challenge. An increasingly materialistic spirit that chokes off the spirit of sacrificial surrender and giving will bring further difficulties in the area of missions.

Another challenge for American Christianity will be living and ministering in a pluralistic society. The restrictions and limitations are already on the rise. In the years to come this can only get worse. The church will have to learn to function with far less liberties and in greater diversity than it has in the past. The challenge for many will be finding balance in living within such a culture yet not surrendering to its demands.

So, what do you think?  Want to expand, question, or disagree?  Even if you didn’t answer before, feel free to share your thoughts now.

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16 thoughts on “Future Challenges to American Christianity – My Response

  1. Cameron,

    Looks like you’ve been busy. That run sounded like fun.

    I think your assessment is a good one. I’ll have to think more about the implications. From all that I’m reading and hearing from people I know who are traveling internationally, the church in other parts of the world is becoming more vibrant, particularly in Asia, Africa and South America. From what I’m reading, the sheer numbers of converts to Christianity is outpacing the U.S. churches in astounding numbers.

    The U.S. will still be an influencer for several years because of its wealth. We are still able to carry on a huge missionary enterprise. But if there is diminished zeal for God, this too will eventually suffer. If sacrifice is required, a pampered people may not be willing to give en masse. People have warned for years that churches in the U.S. may become like those in Europe. We see signs of it happening in Evangelical churches. We have also seen the Anglican church get “schooled” by thier counterparts in Africa. I look to see more of that kind of thing eventually happen here.

    It’s a very important question to ponder. The part about pluralism and diversity is challenging to think about. I’ll have to think about that one.

    TBH

  2. Cameron,

    These are good thoughts. I also like Travis’ response.

    I have often wondered that current American Christianity has been an experiment in doing it when money is not an issue. We certainly have the resources to reach the world for Christ, but sadly, we just aren’t. Rather it has cultivated a Christianity where we would rather take Bible study cruises and go to the latest conference instead of go on a mission trip. It certainly is a departure from the Acts 2 model; we’ll hold everything in common as long as my stuff is still mine.

    We also in America have seen the advent of the super church, churches with high profile pastors and staff, thousands in attendance, a budget in the millions, campuses worth tens of millions, yet most of those churches are known not for their missionary zeal but their super infrastructure. In short, money has made us insular rather than sacrificial. I am no economist, but I have often wondered what a serious economic depression would do to the missionary spirit. I am not up on my 20th century church history as much as I should be, but what was the response of the church in 1929 and the 30’s during the Great Depression?

    A second thought brother Steve really got my thoughts racing was the current wedding of GOP politics and the evangelical church. I think a silencing is on the horizon and it may come (I’m not a prophet nor a son of a prophet, so fwiw) as intense persecution and governmental censure. What are your thoughts?

  3. Travis,

    I agree that the US will continue to have the wealth to carry on missions, just not sure we will have the volunteers or the will to do so. Seems as if fewer and fewer are surrendering to missions, and the more materialistic we get, the less we seem inclined to give. Those countries you mention will likely become the center of Christianity and missions that America has been. I see America becoming like Europe is, and Asia, Africa, and South America becoming what America was/is.

    As to the pluralism, with increased diversity there is decreased tolerance of our “intolerant” religion. I believe it will become more difficult to function as we have in the past. This could actually be helpful to the church by “purging some dross,” but it will certainly be a challenge.

    As to the run, wish you could have been there to suffer with the rest of us! 🙂 People were dropping like flies.

  4. Tony,

    Seems we were commenting at the same time.

    I believe that we WILL see an increased persecution. Perhaps not martyrdom, but certainly more restrictions than we have been used to. There will be increased pressure on the church to be more “inclusive.” Religion will be tolerated as long as it is considered tolerant. That’s what I refer to in my comment, “The church will have to learn to function with far less liberties and in greater diversity than it has in the past.” Christianity is no longer the “Big Man On Campus” it once was.

    I think the result will be what it has historically been during times of persecution. Some will surrender to this pressure and compromise their faith. Others will be strong and demonstrate the sincerity of theirs. Overall, it could be the best thing that has happened to the American church in a long time.

    As to the GOP and conservative Christians, I think the split has been a long time coming. I fully believe in Christians being involved in government, but they have long been the lackeys of the GOP. Few Republicans have genuinely had the best interest of conservative voters at heart. (IMHO)

  5. I really agree with this:

    “I fully believe in Christians being involved in government, but they have long been the lackeys of the GOP. Few Republicans have genuinely had the best interest of conservative voters at heart.”

    Lackeys indeed … count me a one time 25 year lackey … hoping to expand my thinking past those ‘single issues’ that have led me to some poor voting choices.

  6. Bob,

    That’s been true for too many. Maybe the problem is that we have waited too late in the process to get involved. By the time we go to vote, we have only a choice between the “lesser of two evils.” (And sometimes I’m not sure it was the lesser.)

    Despite the so-called “right-wing” voting bloc, a genuinely conservative candidate has little chance of winning a national election. We always get stuck with politicians (who wouldn’t know a family-value if it bit them in their Senate seat) posing as conservatives, just long enough to win our support.

    But, change is in the air . . . (maybe)

  7. I think there is change, not so much in what the GOP serves up, but in what conservative Christians are willing to accept. There seems to be an increasing discontent with “business as usual.” Though in this election cycle we’re liable to end up with a less than distinct choice between two very similar candidates (Clinton and Guiliani), I’m hopeful that by the next election the discontent will begin to bear fruit.

    On a similar note, (I could be wrong) I think we have a genuine conservative option in Mike Huckabee. He also seems to be gaining ground in national awareness.

  8. Thanks … guess I agree in the sense that, more and more, conservative Christians are wising up about the politicians that pander to them. I thnk many of them will cross over to Hillary if Rudy is the candidate.

    On Huckabee: the CATO Institute gave Mike an F for his last term and a D overall.

  9. I thought of you when I read this in an article titled “Why do Evangelicals ignore Ron Paul?”

    “The answer to the above question is not easy to determine. Maybe today’s evangelicals are more concerned about being accepted by the GOP establishment than they are supporting principled, conservative candidates. After all, Paul’s willingness to openly oppose his own party has caused him to be blacklisted by party loyalists and apologists. Therefore, it might be that our illustrious evangelical leaders are unwilling to be identified with Paul lest they share the same ostracism.

    Another reason might be that today’s evangelicals are extremely shallow in their discernment. They seem to love Republican candidates who wear religion on their sleeve. Whether the candidate walks the walk does not seem to matter near as much as whether he talks the talk.”

    Any thoughts about the question?

  10. I’d say both of those reasons contribute, but would add a couple of others:

    1. Many are largely unaware of Ron Paul. Personally, I knew nothing about him until the first debate I watched and still know very little about him. Name recognition has a lot to do with a campaign, and it seems he’s getting little “press time” even from the evangelical “leadership.”

    2. Those who do know about him do not consider him electable. I don’t like it, but it’s a hard fact that many people, conservative and liberal alike, will settle for a less than desirable candidate if he seems able to win. In primaries as well as elections, a vote for a candidate I like could in essence be a vote for the one I don’t.

    This last reason is a contributing factor to the sense of futility from evangelical voters (myself included). Having to choose between voting principle or practical is not something that sits well.

  11. I’m gonna say overcoming the damage that the mega-church and the prosperity gospel are doing to our message. And I don’t expect that we’ll see any true persecution any time soon.

  12. Scott,

    I would agree with both points. Every generation faces a challenge to the purity of the gospel. For modern American evangelicalism, it’s the “gospel-lite” of pop Christianity.

    As to persecution, I don’t foresee any martyrdoms anytime soon either. I do believe there will be an increase in restrictions / decrease in liberties, but this will probably prove beneficial in the long run.

    Thanks for your visit and comments. Your participation is welcomed.

  13. We’re studying 1 Tim in leadership training and talked a little about persecution. There seems to be a belief that the more persecution the church is under the more the gospel flourishes, but when we got to “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” that seemed to indicate that we should pray for peace in this world that the gospel may go forward more effectively.

  14. Scott,

    That is an excellent point. Though historically the church has benefited from persecution, there is no question that evangelization has been the greatest during times of freedom. The nineteenth century in America is an example of that.

    Perhaps the benefit of persecution is a purifying effect on the church rather than an aid to the gospel itself.

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