To Be or Not To Be: Christian

Posted: February 2, 2013 by Dillon in Lifestyle
Tags: , , , ,

According to the 2008 US census, about 173.4 million adults self-identify as “Christian.”

If this is the case, then why is the Church in America dying?  Before anyone over reacts, yes, the number of churches in the United States has increased.  But Faith has not.  What we have made is a system with more churches and less attendance in each church.  Compounding the problem are “Christians” who don’t even know what the Gospel is!

Let’s take a step back and look at the past.  In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles out in the fields converting thousands of people daily (Acts 2).  They didn’t have fancy Gospel tracts, they didn’t have Evangelism training, and they most certainly did not have freedom of religion.  What they had was faith.  The early Church thrived under Jewish law and opposition, only to continue to thrive in the face of Roman execution.  At the time, Rome was the center of polytheistic, existential, philosophical thinking and law.  Yet God chose this time and place to be the incubator for the followers of Christ.  And look at how it turned out!

But you don’t need to go to the 2nd century to find the Church thriving under persecution.  Even today, the Church in east and southeast Asia is growing dramatically.  Christianity has always thrived under persecution; the History channel even refers to it as the “persecuted man’s religion.”  Why then, is the only self proclaimed “Christian nation” the one facing the decline and spiritual death?

I think the biggest challenge is…what makes someone call themselves a “Christian?”  Most people adopt the beliefs of their parents and systematically go through the motions for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes someone will have objections that can’t be answered, and you have a new agnostic/atheist.  Other times, these questions will be answered and you’ll have someone who believes on their own instead of being told.  Somewhere down the line America blurred the distinction of being a Christian and being a cultural Christian.  Because of the “Christian” majority, many just give themselves the title because they were brought up to believe in God.  Believing in God doesn’t make you a Christian; at best, believing in God makes you a pseudo-Abrahamic follower.  This is clearly illustrated in James, “You believe there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe–and tremble!” (James 2:19).


Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions.

Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I would argue that some people who call themselves a Christian are more correct in calling themselves “Abrahamic.” Abraham, for those unfamiliar, is considered the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  It is through him that these religions came, and they are referred to as “Abrahamic religions.”  But that does not mean they are equivalent! Christianity is set apart by the one whose name we take: Christ.

A Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3, John 3:7, 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith in the grace available through Jesus (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9).   The reason that the American Church is on the decline is because we have forgotten the distinction.  Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going in a garage makes you a car.

For a distinction between “Church” and “church” click here!


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