A NOTE from Bill Jones, TBC Communications Editor:
On April 8, Mitch Randall posted - on his blog - his response to Jon Meacham's Newsweek article. For TBC's Baptist Reflections, Mitch has expanded on the thoughts he originally expressed on his blog. You can read Mitch's blog regularly at Earlier this week, Mitch received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Truett Seminary. Congratulations, Dr. Randall!

Earlier this month, Newsweek published an article by Managing Editor Jon Meacham, entitled “The End of Christian America.” As the starting point for his article, Meacham cited the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, which found that the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has climbed from 8 to 15 percent since 1990. During the same period, the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen from 86 to 76 percent. It appears as though the Christian faith is losing influence within the culture. Some of my brothers and sisters blame this on an increasingly secularist culture. I see it differently.

First, I think that the blame for the decreasing numbers of self-identified Christians rests uncomfortably at the doors of the church. For decades now, the church has spent much of its focus on changing culture through the political process. In many cases, the church attempted to impose conservative Christian orthodoxy on the entire American culture. Bogged down in political elections and denominational strife, the church lost its mission to the world. Somewhere along the way, the leaders of the church took us for a ride we were not meant to take. Focused on winning political elections and controlling denominational coffers, the church has drifted away from the original purpose of our existence. We are called to go out into the world and be the presence of Christ.

The church must once again embrace the mission the Lord gave us before he ascended to heaven. It is time to return to the way of Jesus and the first-century church. They are our examples. It is time to love those around us (yes, even those who don’t love us) and recapture the missional fervor of the Apostle Paul. It is time to feed the hungry, offer hope to the poor, and empower people with the ever-present Spirit of God. In other words, it is high time we refocus our efforts around the Great Commandment and Great Commission. If the church fails to refocus . . . if we continue down the same path we have walked in recent years, we will continue to decline.

Second, I agree with Meacham’s claim that America is not post-Christian. Many of my brothers and sisters insist that the end of the world is near if they do not win this “battle,” as they call it. However, in reality, it’s not the world as a whole that’s coming to an end – it’s only “their world” that’s being stopped dead in its tracks. In other words, the church is not going to die.

However, the church is changing. There’s no denying it. Those who have been leading the church for the past 20 to 30 years are losing their influence. The greatest unknown for everyone is how the church will change. If we continue to hold to beliefs without basis, we will continue to decline. However, if we reenergize ourselves around a missional strategy that demonstrates the love of Christ to a world that is poor, hungry, sick, and lonely, then we will start seeing a church that is healthy and growing, and meeting the needs of the world around us – today and in the years to come.

Although this kind of talk intimidates many among us, there is a new movement “emerging” within the church. This movement has two interesting characteristics. One, it has the audacity to take Jesus at His word. And two, it is young.

Young adults and students are seriously translating the words of Jesus into their own day-to-day lives and seeking to bring about God’s justice in the world. They have a deep passion for working alongside the “least of these,” as Jesus called them (Matthew 25: 31-46), in a way that is not condescending but empowering and transforming. Yet, the sad truth is that these young adults are not seeking the local church as the venue for carrying out their mission efforts. Instead, they are going through parachurch organizations to fulfill their desire to do missions. They have grown up in churches that talked big but did little. This “emerging” generation is tired of seeing meaningless words substituted for action. They want to be involved in action that is meaningful and intentional.

So, if the church is to be what Jesus has called us to be – the light in the midst of a dark world – we must accept responsibility for the decline in the numbers of those who identify with us. We must fall on our knees to repent of allowing Christ’s church to drift away from its calling. We can stop the decline of the church only by being humble and open to change.

The church in America can thrive again if we embrace this new way with humanity and passion. We must stand alongside our global brothers and sisters to participate in the “kingdom” work of which Jesus spoke while He walked among us. The church can adapt and overcome, but we must be willing to listen to the voice of God and bold enough to follow where He directs.