Most of us are familiar with the old question of which came first…The chicken or the egg?
“(logic, philosophy) A supposed paradox concerning whether chickens or chicken eggs existed first. (by extension) A question to decide which of two interdependent things happened first. (wiktionary.org)”
Today’s Pew’s question is kinda a take on that. That question got me to the one which I wanted to know today, What came first… Church or Faith? That in turn led me to the next question. Is The Church in America declining? These figures from a Gallup poll seems to point to that. These numbers are from December 21,2022 and I share them below.
“Church membership held steady at around 70 percent of the U.S. population from the 1940s through the 1990s. Membership plummeted in the new millennium. The decline is largely driven by a surging population of “nones,” or Americans who claim no religion, at 21 percent, as of 2021, according to Gallup.Dec 21, 2022”
According to an article written by Daniel de Visé | Dec. 21, 2022, the share of Americans who belong to churches dipped below half in 2020, an historically low number. Now admittedly I am throwing a lot of numbers at you from a variety of sources but I do so to preface the question of today. Is The Church in America declining? A 2021 survey says 31% of Americans never attend church or synagogue, compared to 22 percent of Americans who attend every week. One more set of numbers for you. There are many signs that America’s Christian majority is shrinking and has been for decades. As of 2020 it is about 64%. Fifty years ago it was 90%. Let’s set the numbers aside for a moment. If you are a person of faith and have membership in a church regardless of denomination your surely can attest to this. You can also verify this by an honest assessment of the current state of the world today. There is a direct correlation to the decline of civility, respect for law and a reasonable respect for the accepted moralities as determined by society in general; all of which are in a serious decline today. There are other polls that do present different more positive numbers, one of which is from goodfaithmedia.org .
“Aug 8, 2022 — Weekly worship attendance among U.S. Millennials more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, according to a new Barna Group report.”
What is Faith? In the New Testament book of Hebrews 11:1-3 is this biblical assessment of faith.
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
I would ask you to consider a few things during this time of Epiphany. The church today has in many ways lost its place at the table, so to speak, more and more Christians and their faith are being marginalized by cultural and societal pressures and the mob mentality that exists today. It would also be fair to note that we, the church are also responsible to a degree for the state of the church, as we know it today. In Revelation chapter 3 verses 15 & 16 the Lord conveys these words to John to write to the church at Laodicea.
15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” NKJV
Amen! We have become complacent and careless in our personal faith and strengthening the fidelity of the church and faith, that we might serve our Lord and God with all our hearts and minds, our presence and our gifts. These verses are from Isaiah 42:8-9 and they remind me of me of the importance of this season of Epiphany.
I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.
The visit of the Wise Men introduced the world to the promise…hope is a powerful thing and here now was among us God’s promise to his people… and in the weeks, months and years ahead we will witness this mission of salvation for all who believe as scripture reveals Jesus Christ, The Messiah going forth to do the work of his Father in heaven. The intent of all this is to put before you the importance of faith as a renewable source, faith is the engine of the church. Which came first church or faith? Here in the Pew our answer would be FAITH.
The year ahead will be one of many distractions, challenges that will turn us away from the real issues facing the church. My pastor last week put the importance of FOCUS before us as we journey to meet and know our Lord better. Immerse yourself in prayer…read the bible more every day. Be involved in the Lords work and remember this,
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Life is Good