If you were to buy into recent headlines regarding Christianity without knowing God’s word, it might just send you into a state of panic. Headlines such as “U.S. Confidence in Organized Religion at Low Point” or “Ex-Pastor Turned American Atheist Director Tells How She Lost Faith” can really bring on fear, doubt, or other negative emotions if your faith is not rooted and grounded in the word.
Why is it that Christianity seems to be in a crisis? Why is it that so many young people are leaving churches? Why is atheism making such strides with people who were once religious? If you were to ask each person who no longer claims Christianity why they no longer claim it, you just might come up with a different answer with each person. The Bible has already given us a few of those answers already. Since there’s nothing new under the sun as Ecclesiastes says, and since the Bible is a prophetic book whose prophecies come true, we can gather some idea of why things are the way they are in the church. Here are a few:
1. Some people who join church aren’t really Christians. Just like Jesus had a Judas, we the body of Christ are destined to have traitors among us who pretend to be like us, but whose hearts haven’t changed from their naturally sinful state. This is what Jesus told us would happen in his parable of the sower for those whose hearts are like the stony ground [Mark 4]. Jesus also warned us about false prophets who come to us being wolves in sheep’s clothing [Matthew 7:15].
Those who are genuine Christians endure until the end even if they sometimes get off track. Or as John so eloquently said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us,” 1 John 2:18-19. Since they are really anti-christ, they eventually become like Demas, forsaking the faith, “having loved this present world,” [2 Timothy 4:10].
2. Phony people in church make Christianity look bad. Peter warned us in 2 Peter 2, “…there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” It is the goal of fake Christians to make Christianity look bad to unbelievers, to ruin Christ’s (and by default Christianity’s) reputation. Others are so intent on glorifying themselves that it causes Christianity to look bad. So you have people who boast about how they were once involved in ministry, but have now forsaken Christianity because they think Christianity is bogus. Then there are others who witnessed the sinful actions of hypocrites in church and based their view of Christianity on other humans, instead of on the true Lord Jesus Christ and on his word, so they left.
3. Many Christians in the church don’t want to confront sin in the congregation. One reason is because they fear other people more than they fear God, leading them to become more concerned with whether or not someone will like them. When Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira about lying to the Holy Spirit in front of the church, it strengthened the church and increased the fear of God [Acts 5:11]. Jesus commanded church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20 and again in Revelation 2-3. The Holy Spirit also moved Paul to confront the Corinthian church about letting sin slide in 1 Corinthians 5. When evil is not confronted in the church, points 1 and 2 above just repeat themselves in an endless cycle.
Whatever the reasons people give to forsake the faith, some of the reasons may be understandable, but they are never justifiable. Romans 1 tells us that God has throughout history made himself known to men by his works and those who choose to be ignorant about it and reject his truth are “without excuse.” Therefore, in the end, all the whining that ex-Christians do is based on glorifying themselves or placing the blame on the wrong person–God. The truth is that since its beginning, Christianity has always been in crisis and will be in crisis until Christ comes back because Satan and his children will oppose everything God does until they are thrown in the lake of fire. Crises have only served to make the church stronger and helped it to continue through the ages because the church is upheld by God’s everlasting covenant which is founded on God’s everlasting grace and strength. In the end, God wins and since true believers belong to God, the church will also win in the end. So although we hate to see people leave the faith because of our love for them, our devotion to God leads us to say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Harry A. Gaylord