Earlier this year I attended Sunday services at an impressive 19th-century church in London. In a building with seating for 3,000 in ornate pews, a handful of elderly people sat inside . . . in chairs set up in the foyer.
The service, held in a vibrant city full of millions of people, reminded me of a funeral—not the funeral of a person, the funeral of a once-great institution. In the past 40 years, 1600 churches in England, with hundreds of years of ministry behind them, have shut their doors, according to an architectural preservation group called the Victorian Society.
Today, few Americans are aware of the spiritual epidemic that wiped out the land of our Christian forefathers. Even fewer are aware that the same epidemic has reached our own shores, spreading like a virus.
American Christianity could become extinct in less than two generations—if Christians in this country don’t act quickly and decisively. Respected pollster George Barna was one of the first to put numbers to this epidemic, finding that six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in a church during their teen years are already gone. Since that research was published in 2000, survey after survey has confirmed the same basic trend.
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The problem, in both the United Kingdom and America, began when the Church basically disconnected the Bible from the real world. Churches in America are not places where people typically talk about dinosaurs, fossils, or the age of the earth—that is left up to the secular schools and colleges. Effectively, the Church concentrates on the spiritual and moral aspects of Christianity.
But the Bible is not some “pie in the sky” theoretical book. It’s a real book connected to the real world. It has everything to do with history, geology, biology, anthropology, and sociology. It provides the true history of the world, as opposed to evolution over millions of years.
The “disconnect” between faith and fact is an illusion created by an overwhelming misinterpretation of the facts. Observational science confirms the Bible’s history and, thus, also the Christian doctrines (like the gospel) that are based in that history.
As I travel around the world teaching how to defend biblical principles and history, I find that whether my audience is secular or Christian, they ask the same questions, such as:
God’s Word is confirmed by observational science: for example, a study of geology confirms that most rock layers and canyon systems are best explained by catastrophic process (such as those associated with Noah’s Flood a few thousand years ago), rather than gradual processes over millions of years.
The Word of God has never changed, but the Church’s perception of the Word of God changed when it failed to engage the evolutionist scientific community on matters of evidence as well as faith. Typical churches use resources that are more geared for what could be called the “Jew in Jerusalem” who has developed a religious background and lives in a religiously friendly society.
We are now in the era of the “Greeks”—like the secular philosophers the Apostle Paul encountered on Mars Hill—yet our churches and Sunday schools are still teaching us like Jews.
See the problem?
Our society is immersed in secularism. It’s essential that we learn how to defend the Bible and the Christian faith for our sake and our children’s. If we don’t, the empty and obsolete churches in England will foreshadow the future in America.
The Victorian Society’s magazine recently carried a headline that read, “Redundant Churches: Who Cares?” Churches in the United Kingdom have been turned into theaters, restaurants, museums—even mosques and temples. I have a whole series of photographs that I have taken of such buildings that were formerly churches.
Where England is today, America will be tomorrow—unless we act now and pray for God’s blessing. It’s time for a new Reformation in the Church—to call the Church back to the authority of the Word of God, beginning in Genesis.
This commentary was adapted from Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It, written with Britt Beemer and Todd Hillard.
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