Voices: A “Stronger, Smaller, and Stranger” Church Is in Your Future

By T. David Beck

SACRAMENTO, CA (August 10, 2015) — The number of self-professing Christians in America is continuing to decline. The number of “nones” (people who are affiliated with no particular religion) is on the rise. Should Christians be alarmed?

In a post on Patheos that’s worth your time, Drew Dyck (@drewdyck), managing editor of Leadership Journal, says no. In fact, the trends in American Christianity are actually encouraging. It’s counterintuitive, but I agree with Drew. Let me explain with some personal experience.

In 1992, Susan and I moved from Southern California to Dallas, Texas so I could begin my doctoral studies at SMU. We found life in the Bible Belt to be drastically different from what we had known before. In SoCal, it is not to one’s social advantage to profess being a committed Christian. There are fewer “nominal” Christians (people who are Christian in name but not lifestyle). Contrast that with Dallas, where being a professing Christian was the social norm (I assume it still is). Most people went to church and even midweek Bible studies. A few of them were also living in a personal, obedient relationship with God.

As nice as it is to find so many churches so well attended throughout the Dallas area, Susan and I preferred SoCal’s culture where Christianity has more of a minority identity. As Jesus observed, people who are religious but jaded are almost impervious to the gospel. Susan and I have experienced more of God’s power in a context of fewer people who are more genuinely committed.

Christianity is headed toward being a “stronger, smaller, and stranger” minority in our culture. Drew writes, “We’ll be left with a church of upstream swimmers, people who cling to their faith identity despite a powerful counter current of anti-Christian sentiment.”

Drew says that’s good news. Here is how his post ends:

“Thankfully, in the days ahead, rather than fighting tired culture wars or clinging to power we will be free to embody and proclaim the unique and ancient gospel as a vibrant minority. Of course, like most minorities, we may be embattled. But that shouldn’t worry us. Jesus himself warned that his kingdom is not of this world. Even his triumphal entry happened on a donkey. In the days ahead, we’ll see how good we are at following his courageous and humble example.”

T. David Beck is pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Sacramento, California. This column initially appeared on his blog. Beck is the author of Luminous: Living the Presence and Power of Jesus. His article, “Crashing the Party,” is published in the current issue of the Companion. 

Editor’s note: The Drew Dyck post is not currently available online.

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