I get a weekly email newsletter from Phil Drysdale, a man for whom I have the greatest respect, and who is a real Christian thinker. In the past, I have likened to C. S. Lewis other thinkers like the superb Jeff Turner, and I would say that Phil is in the same league.
Today, I would like to share with you a piece taken directly from his latest newsletter. Don’t be put off by the title!
Are you persecuting the largest growing group of Christians?
I’m fascinated by how the Christian landscape is changing in the West.
It’s something most Christians are aware of. But just in case you aren’t I want to share some stats with you…
Did you know that in the USA, the most conservative numbers suggest ~3500 people leave the church every day. This equates to dozens of churches closing their doors every week!
The fastest growing Christian group is Evangelical Christianity, which grows at a rate of ~1,000 a day. Which is pretty impressive, until you realize that most of those people come from other churches. It’s not really a net gain for Christianity as a whole.
Some statistics suggest that while the Evangelical church grew by 2 million between 2007-14, the amount of people leaving church entirely in that period was 19 million (that’s 10,000+ a day!).
That’s 10 times as many people leaving Christianity as those who are joining the only growing Christian group in America.
This is where most Christians tend to shut down. It’s easy to look at these numbers and find ourselves in despair. To feel pretty hopeless.
But there is another way to look at these numbers.
You see there is another statistic that turns these kind of numbers on their heads. I’ve mentioned it before in my newsletters and online in various places.
That’s the statistic that approximately 78% of those who leave church still claim to follow Jesus in some way or another.
Stop and think about that.
That means of the 3600 (we’ll stick with the smaller number for the sake of our poor hearts) people leaving church today, with no intention of returning, as much as 2700 are still in love with Jesus and trying to follow Him as best they can.
I’d like to propose to you that while institutional church is facing a crisis, The Church isn’t.
Every day I talk with dozens of people who are going through this process. Most have not left their church because they have a lack of faith, but because they are growing in their faith and their church simply doesn’t have room for them to do so.
There is an astonishing awakening in the world today. And much of the church which is crying out for a move of God in their midst is missing it!
Not only are many of us missing this move of God… we are actively persecuting it!
We cry “heresy” and label people as “backsliders.” Because we have a framework that can’t celebrate people actively growing in their faith if it doesn’t involve church or God as we understand it/Him.
It has been famously said by many a leader of revival that “those in the new movement of God are almost always rejected by the past move of God.” But I genuinely believe this is exactly what we are doing right now.
Instead of writing off the millions who are leaving the church we should be engaging with them. Not with a view to make sure they stay in the church. Or even to try and change them. But rather to understand them and have relationship with them as part of our family.
Because trust me… for every person I know who left the church for bad reasons there are dozens who have left it for very good reasons. In fact, the average person sitting in a pew each week could probably grow tremendously by listening to them.
It’s easy to get discouraged for those of us who are in the church and believe in the church when people stop attending one (especially in such huge numbers!)
But with a perspective change it’s easy to see that these people never left The Church. They are still a part of the Body of Christ. They still gather with other believers. The only difference is in how we choose to see them.
So the question is, will we embrace them as part of our family, working out their faith in a fresh and new way as they feel God calling them? Or will we reject what is very possibly the next move of God?
– Phil Drysdale, shared with his kind permission