A recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals that the percentage of adults in America who would describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just the past seven years. Over the same period of time the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points.
I’m not really sure what to make of all that; other than it seems to me the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ seems to be diminishing.
How could that be?
I don’t really have an explanation, but I can’t help but wonder if we assume too much when it comes to the Earth shaking, death defeating, sin breaking, eternal life-saving power of the cross at Calvary.
I’ve had two conversations not too long ago that have caused me to wonder if we assume the Gospel too much.
The first conversation was with a young man who grew up in a local church. This 20-something year old had attended “Christian” services regularly and gone on international mission trips to provide clean water for the impoverished. Real life-giving ministry, wouldn’t you agree? When I asked this guy, “To you, who is Jesus?” his reply was, “Uh….I’m not really sure. I guess a really good teacher?” In that moment I prayed and attempted to share the Gospel just as clear as I could. When I finished he looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I’ve never heard that before.”
The second conversation was with a guy around 50 years of age. He described himself as a Christian and as we talked I began to wonder what he knew about Jesus. I asked, “Do you know why Jesus had to die?” He thought for the briefest moment and said, “Not really.” I prayed and attempted to share the Gospel just as clear as I could. When I finished he looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I can’t believe that God would give up his Son to die for anybody.” I said, “I know. That’s why it’s amazing grace.”
All of this has me thinking. Are we assuming the Gospel of Christ too much? Are we telling people to be good, give more and serve others all without providing the most real and compelling reason why? Do the diminishing percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians even know the message of Jesus?
Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
I think we need to assume less and perhaps use words more.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3.15 (NLT)
~ Kevin Baker