"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18 ESV).
In my last post I spoke of the troubling statistic that for the first time in the history of our nation the majority of Americans do not profess Christianity. The past 20 years have seen a 20% decline in church attendance. The declining interest in Christianity has resulted in many negative consequences, particularly among our young. World Magazine (Dec. 28, 2019) quotes psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, “As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.”
This decline of interest in Christianity in our nation is indeed troubling. But not so fast! We must not pretend that the US is the only nation on the earth. Americans are often accused of an arrogant sense of self-importance. While the statistics of a decline in Christianity in the US must not be dismissed, Christianity in other parts of the world is flourishing. Before 1949 there were approximately four million Christians in China. Today there are over 31 million officially recognized, but many believe there are tens of millions more, with a 7% annual increase. In 1900 there were 8.7 million Christians in Africa. In 2010 there were 390 million. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Iran, increasing at an annual rate of 5.2%. This is in a Islamic nation where Christians are persecuted. In 1950 Christianity in South Korea stood at 3% compared with almost 20% today.
What does this mean? It means Christians in America have much Gospel work to do. While we must not neglect the foreign mission field, we must not turn our eyes away from the tremendous mission field here at home. The Great Commission begins in our own backyard. We must also never forget the promise of our Lord regarding His Church, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” We must not see the decline of Christianity in one particular region as indicative of the health of our Lord’s kingdom.
We also must not misunderstand our Lord’s words. “Gates” were used defensively to protect a city. Hell’s gates are under siege by the church, and they will not prevail. The church marches forth as a mighty unstoppable force bombarding Satan’s kingdom through the power of the Gospel, and its gates are continuing to crumble. We need to march forth with confidence and steadfast courage as we carry the Gospel to the lost of our generation. Pray that God will have mercy upon our land and bring a great awakening.