A Clearer Picture

American Christianity


“O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Have you noticed how much politicians have changed in the last eight to ten years? Whether Democrat or Republican, it used to be in vogue to tout your Christian faith before the voters. But that’s not so much the case anymore. Wearing the Christian label can be politically incorrect for several reasons.

The main reason is that fewer Americans are checking the survey box for “Christian.” According to Lifeway President, Ed Stetzer, many of the same people are merely deselecting the Christian label. In a recent USA Today column, Stetzer said, “People who once called themselves Christians are simply no longer doing that. As Christians find themselves more and more on the margins of American society (on moral issues), people are beginning to count the cost. It can actually be polarizing or considered intolerant now.”

What Stetzer’s effectively saying is that those who merely called themselves Christian, but had no genuine commitment to Christ, are now opting out. Perhaps we could say, those folks are finally calling it like it is. As Stetzer points out, “The Church is not dying, it is just being more clearly defined.” A Christian is, after all, one who puts his or her faith in the life, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the Gospel). Anyone calling themselves a Christian outside of this definition is actually not a Christian, no matter what box they check. Christians serve Jesus as Lord, by taking up their own cross and following Him. None of us do that perfectly, after all we’re still a work in process, but by God’s grace we have the desire and strive to do so.

While this trend may seem negative, I actually believe it’s positive for American Christianity. Finally, our non-Christian neighbors will be able to see that we are different. By different, I don’t mean that we act more righteous than others, although I hope there’s some evidence of the Holy Spirit in us which testifies to that fact. What I mean is that because we are not righteous on our own, we see our own need to depend on and not abandon Jesus. I hope they see us not as “intolerant,” but as compelled by love into our neighborhoods and towns to tell others boldly and respectfully the truth about their need for Jesus.

While the percentage of those identifying themselves as Christian is on the decline in America, the actual percentage of those who say they have “faith in Jesus, He has changed their lives, and since that time their lives have been increasingly orient around their faith in Him” has actually increased by almost the same amount as nominal Protestantism has decreased. This represents not a shift from one group to another but, rather, new life in Jesus Christ as a result of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel.

Our own country is fast becoming a mission field. We can now more clearly see to whom we need to bring the Gospel. Therefore, let’s take advantage of this historic opportunity to make the most of telling others about Jesus. And let’s pray that God would use our witness to bring about revival and transform a nation from nominal to authentic Christianity.

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