Is Christianity Getting Better or Worse?

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Christians often follow a narrative that assumes everything is getting worse. Sermons, books, and movies preach that the End Times are just around the corner, and apocalyptic doom is an unavoidable fact.

Signs of the Armageddon are everywhere—and we love to point them out within a secular culture saturated with sex, drugs, and immorality.

It’s an easy temptation to evaluate, gauge, and measure the current—and upcoming—state of Christianity within this fearful context. It happens often, and when we take time to reflect on humanity and Christianity in general, the results are usually gloomy.

Each Governmental action, world event, and church culture war is perceived as a sign of the impending annihilation of Christianity. Morality is failing, secularism is rising, and everything seemingly points to a mass rejection of God.

We make the following complaints, warnings, and observations: “Christianity has become watered down. People no longer read the Bible. Most of the population doesn’t go to church as often. Crime rates are increasing. Porn is everywhere. Clothing is become increasingly racy. Television is more violent. Commercials are more sexual than they used to be. Kids no longer respect their elders. Education is getting worse. The church is superficial. The Gospel is being sacrificed for the sake of accommodating cultural trends.”

It’s a vicious cycle of complaining endlessly about the sad reality of Christianity and the world around us.

Meanwhile, research and data seemingly reinforce these assumptions: overall church attendance proves that Christianity is weakening, nationwide divorce rates reflect moral decline, and the profane content throughout the media unmistakably shows the depravity of today’s young generation.

In short, things have never been worse!

The problem with this type of thinking is that it’s extremely short-sighted and ethnocentric. While we negatively interpret American culture and Christianity, in other parts of the world there’s revival, rapid growth, and inspiring spiritual renewal. For many foreign Christian communities, things have never looked so good and hopeful!

The second problem with this type of fear-mongering is that it’s backed up with revisionist historical vignettes based on false premises and deceptions: where everyone went to church, everyone remained faithfully married, and everyone was more upright, hardworking, honest, and righteous than people today.

Despite the absurdity of these claims, and the drastically skewed perceptions, we widely accept these accounts as being true—they’re not. Most of this propaganda does more harm than good, and instead of inspiring a sense of hope, peace, and joy, they only manage to portray Christians as cynical pessimists.

It’s a favorite Christian pastime for churches, pastors, theologians, and parishioners to lament the moral downfall of modern Christianity and the rest of humanity. Not only does it get our attention, but it creates a convenient scenario where we’re the persecuted victims, and everyone else is an agent of Satan. Self-righteousness, judgment, and legalism follows.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, the past wasn’t as great as we think it was, and the present isn’t as bad as we assume it is.

Historically, when church attendance rates were near its highest point within the United States, things like slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, and child labor were rampant. Women couldn’t vote, corruption was everywhere, violence ruled the land, and people were abused and harshly discriminated against based on race, religion, and cultural differences.

Is today’s modern Church that much worse than when “Christians” actively participated in slavery, segregation, racism, and sexism?

Measuring church attendance, Bible literacy, and the percentage of people believing in Atheism isn’t a good way of evaluating the state of Christianity. Faith isn’t something that can be quantified using business models and polls.

Variables like righteousness and the Holy Spirit can’t be decisively measured using hard data, but we can look for the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

A case can be made that these wonderful things are far more prevalent now than they ever were in the past.

Yes, modern churches are far from perfect, and many horrific things have been done in the name of God. We still have many major sins and issues to address, and many wrongs that need to be righted.

But the truth is that for all of Christianity’s current faults—and there are many—things aren’t necessarily getting worse. As believers, we need to have hope that God is making things new, better, and restoring the Creation around us—redeeming it.

Do we really want to promote a storyline based on fear, guilt, and negativity, where the Gospel revolves around destruction instead of restoration, fear instead of hope, and damnation instead of salvation?

In the end, our expectations should rest in the promises and faithfulness of God—not the failures of Christianity.

 

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14 thoughts on “Is Christianity Getting Better or Worse?

  1. I have always thought that morality and so called evil have been pretty level in all points of history. it has always been a question of what has been allowed to be in the open and what was hidden hypocrisy. Christians always seem to think the end is near no matter what time they live and usually they are horribly wrong.

  2. Yes! This is so true. It’s so discouraging when people moan about how terrible the world is getting (and I often feel like my generation gets blamed a lot, poor Millenials) but I read the other day that since the 80s, world poverty has reduced from something like 50% of the world to 21%. (That’s not exactly what it said, can’t quite remember, but it’s something like that.) And there are some great revivals happening in some places in the world!

  3. One thing needs to be perfectly clear. As per your example and the example I recently used, which was the Crusades. Anyone can call themselves Christian. All show where they really stand in their believes by their actions more then then words.

  4. veronika

    I couldn’t agree more! Christianity is “imperfect” in a sense because it consists of people that are so-said “imperfect” and that is why the argument that is often made that religion brings more bad than good into the world (through wars, fighting, ect.) is completely invalid! Our faith and religion is in God despite our constant mistakes in history!

  5. This is so good, and right on! I found earlier this year that I fell into that category of Christians that just thought everything was so bad, and I was so negative! Now instead of worrying about what others choose to do I’ve chosen to work and focus on myself. If my heart and intentions are alined with Christ and are positive and pure I can only radiate that, and naturally not focus on the bad in the world, but the good.

    • Stephen Mattson

      Thanks, Jenna! Yeah, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. I used to be the same way…still happens sometimes! Yikes.!

  6. Alexandru Draghici

    it is so true what you have written. As a best ager I found hardly enough to explain to my children, 20 and 24 why I chosen to be a christian. They are smart enough to see that most of the christian behave not better than the non-christian. And comparing to theil dreams, it is hard to accept a hard life, discipline, self-control, restraints, instead of beeing competitive, selfish, aggresive, etc. But I know that even I am not understood, God is working permanently, based on my eagerness not to give up, to pursue the Son, the Truth, the Way! And based on that, and on my prayer He works also in the lifes of my children, and in the life around. I want, although it is hard, to be a life-giving person. No more, no less! And because Jesus is in me, all things are possible! Amin!

  7. For about 2000 years people have been interpreting the ‘signs of the times’ to mean the impending second coming, but it hasn’t happened yet! This process has accelerated over the last couple of hundred years in the west due to the popular adoption of premillennialism and amillenialism. These two trains of thought broadly interpret the Bible to say that things will get really bad and then Jesus comes back. The prevailing theology for almost all of the history of Christianity except the last couple of hundred years was post millennialist, which broadly teaches that the gospel will reach the four corners of the world and a significant majority will turn to Christ. This, to me, fits in so much better with the Bible’s ‘big picture’ story of redemption.

  8. I always struggle when we define the “church” and “Christianity” by people who attend services or profess to be Christians. I wonder how the Father sees the church which His Son is building? I hope to be able to see it as He is building it as His own body that he is indwelling…versus the forms and shapes of what we call church and christianity today!! Open my eyes Lord that I can see your Body….

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