Dead or alive?

Will the Christian church in North America be dead or alive in another generation?

Some Christian leaders warn that, based on current trends, the church will virtually melt away.

Others say that the church in Canada and the United States may be on the verge of a New Testament-style recovery.

I’m an optimist so I see signs of transformation.  But I acknowledge that the church is heading into perilous waters.

This is astonishing in light of Christianity’s explosive growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  And this decline in North America has happened in just 50 years.

One survey quoted by Matt Carter in his e-book Released found that only 9 per cent of those who call themselves believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ believe in the basic tenets of the faith such as:

  • Absolute moral truth exists;
  • The Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches;
  • A person cannot earn their way into heaven by being good or doing good works;
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and
  • God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

Even more dismaying, this figure drops to less than 1 per cent of self-professed Christians in the 18-23 age group – the next generation.

Of course, there are many reasons for this decline in faith. But surely one of them is a failure to introduce children of Christian parents to a vital, living faith.

However, I find it encouraging that Christian leaders are now beginning to deal with this issue.  Increasingly, they are saying that the church and Christian families need to work together to reach children of believers.

My wife and I are delighted that our three children are working closely with their churches to “bring them (their children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:14).  This is more than just hearing – it involves exercising their faith through what they do.

One daughter, an Anglican minister, has launched a “young disciples” program in her church where the church helps parents teach and encourage their children in the faith and give them spiritual tasks in the home – learning by doing.  The parents are asked to take an active role in working with their children on these tasks.

Our church, too, has a Sunday school program which calls on the family to reinforce what the children are learning on Sunday.

These may not seem world-shaking efforts.  But they are when you consider that many children in Christian families have no clear understanding of their faith and see no real commitment on the part of their parents.

The faith potential of children is enormous.  They can often show adults how to share the gospel with others.

Surely a starting point in reaching the world is reaching our own families.

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