"And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." -Jeremiah 31:34
In June's "Shadow of the Cross," I shared with you briefly three things that make any business a success: Take Care of the Team, Serve the Customer, Make a Profit. This is my second installment of exploring each of those requirements in detail. As we are slowly getting back to the way things used to be, there are some things that could be more focused.
One of the things that I hear thrown around a lot nowadays is the idea that "The United States of America is a Christian nation." I understand where this idea comes from, but I don't fully agree with it. (If you'd like to discuss it further, let's grab a coffee and talk face-to-face.) One of the main reasons that I disagree with this idea is found in the verse from Jeremiah above. If our country were truly a Christian nation, then the prophecy above would be true. We wouldn't need to teach our neighbor or our brother saying, "Know the Lord," because everyone would know Him.
But that's not the case, is it? A Gallup news story reported in March 2021 that church membership in the U. S. fell below 50% for the first time. (You can read that story here: https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majorityfirst-time.aspx) This story lumps all religions together: synagogues, mosques, and churches and shows that only 4 7% of Americans say they are members of a house of worship. If you took away those who are Muslim and Jewish from those figures, the people who are Christian are much less than 50%, meaning Christians are no longer in the majority in our nation. If we measured the religion of our nation by popularity, the U. S. is no longer a Christian nation. Christians are in the minority.
So, what are we to do? Should we wring our hands in worry? Should we shake our fists in anger? No. We should do what the Church has done in the past.
Remember: The Church has been in this position before. After the Resurrection of Jesus, there were about 120 Christians. On Pentecost, the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit added about 3,000 Christians when there were 4-5 million people in the Roman Empire. But this Church saw it as their mission to serve the people around them. Christians were some of the first to care for orphans. During plagues, Christians bravely ministered to the sick and dying while others huddled in their homes. By carrying out this mission with passion and faith, the Christian faith became the majority in the Roman Empire in about 300 years.
Underneath all these acts of mercy and kindness was the timeless message that we see at the end of the verse from Jeremiah: "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." The historic growth of Christianity was not a program carried out by large congregations. It was not done by powerful, faithful pastors and church workers. It was accomplished by the everyday ordinary people of God telling their friends and neighbors that God forgives their iniquity for Jesus' sake. This was done by regular people proclaiming that God knows all things but forgets our sins.
I believe that this is a great time to be the Church because there are so many people who have no religious preference. We have the chance to join the Holy Spirit in His work of proclaiming the
Gospel, receiving the Sacraments, and having holy conversations about the forgiveness that is ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have the God-given opportunity to serve our community with the Gospel.
How do we do this? Starting September 19th, Sara and I will be leading a class called, "Joining Jesus on His Mission." It's a ten-part class on how to live everyday as if we were missionaries ... because that's what we've become. It's not a new way to canvas neighborhoods or invite people to church. It's a way to build relationships and let people know that we are comfortable talking about the sacred mystical things of God. More information and sign-ups will be coming soon.
Pastor Tom Vanderbilt