For quite a number of months I have been overly concerned the membership growth of the Highway Church of Christ is directly connected to my failings as a preacher. So much I have been thinking along this line I have seriously contemplated resigning in order to encourage the elders to bring in “new blood” that some stimulation of a different sort may result in numerical growth.
I have been encouraged to dismiss this thought with the few that I have spoken about this.
In the latest issue of the Christian Chronicle (April 2015, pp. 1, 16) there is a short article on the numerical decline in churches of Christ. In the last 25 years, the numerical attendance of the church in America has declined nearly 10%. This decline, however, is not a “church of Christ” problem, but an overall religious interest decline in this country.
What is the reason for this? “‘There is a discernable rise of churchless Americans,’ Barna President David Kinnaman told The Christian Chronicle. ‘This consists of three trends converging: an increasing percentage of atheists, a growing number of nominal Christians disengaging completely from churches and more pressure on well-intentioned churchgoing families who don’t attend as many weekends per year as they would have 10 years ago’ (p. 16).”
The third group mentioned – I don’t quite understand what is being said. The first two, however, I know very well.
I want to offer some thoughts concerning them.
Consider the “nominal Christians.” These are people who want to be saved from their sins (clearly recognizing that sins exist, and that they are damning), but they don’t want to do what the Lord said is required of them. The Lord addresses this very sentiment in the Gospel of John. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21, NKJV, emphasis added).
The idea of being exposed is as difficult of an experience as one can, well, experience. Yet, if salvation is desired, then exposure must result. It has already been seen by God, the guilty one knows about, now there is need for the guilty to own up to it.
The increasing number of atheists is directly connected to a world where confusion reigns with regard to what is right and wrong. I constantly write letters to editor for the exposing purpose of showing the complete emptiness of an atheistic moral code (this includes agnosticism and secularism) in a society where right and wrong is crucial for a civilized community. There is an audience in the community who wants to read such things as I write; thus, I am printed in the newspapers in Decatur as well in Mattoon-Charleston often.
It can be discouraging to labor in an environment where growth is exceedingly slow (if it occurs at all). Labor, however, must continue to occur. Whether or not Ron Thomas is right for the Highway Church of Christ in Sullivan, Illinois might be up for discussion. What is most certainly right is that Ron Thomas has to be up for the “fight.”