Is Christianity And Faith In God Shrinking In America: Christians can’t have a very big impact on culture if we are shrinking in numbers. But is the number of people who profess themselves as Christ-followers actually declining? Tune in now to find out!

Air Date: 08/13/2019

Guest: Glenn Stanton

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

RICK:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always doing that from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.

That’s how you get the right answer on any question, especially some of those tough questions we have in the culture today. That means the Church has to be vocal. We as Christians have to know what that Biblical worldview is, and then, how to articulate it in a way that has a positive influence on the culture.

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, Tim Barton, national speaker and President of WallBuilders, and my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state legislator, national speaker, and author.

We appreciate you joining us.

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All right, guys, so this intersection of faith and the culture–can’t have a very good intersection there if our faith community is shrinking to the point of not influencing the culture anymore. And, sometimes we feel that way. Our guest later in the program has written an entire book saying that’s not the case, that Christianity is not shrinking in America.

It sure feels like it though if you just follow what’s happening on Facebook or listen to the major media.

“Christianity”

TIM:

Well, I think one of the important things to define is what do we mean by “Christianity.” If we say, “Christianity is shrinking,” it’s almost like when we talk about Is America a Christian nation? Well, it depends on how we define the term “Christian,” right?

If we say, “America is Christian because everybody is Christian who is in America,” well, no, that’s not really accurate. If we talked about how the majority of the population is Christian, well, that’s, by definition, still technically true. Right?

But, I would counter and say, “Well, I don’t think a Christian nation would murder 63 to 64 million of their unborn children. I don’t think a Christian nation is confused about God’s design for marriage or about His design of humanity being a male and a female because we were created in His image as a male and female. There are a lot of questions I would have.

Christian Nation

But, it depends on how we define “Christian nation.” If you go back historically, the way  that “Christian nation” has been defined was it was a nation who had been shaped by the influence of Christianity and the Bible, and so Christianity helped make the nation what it was. Well, that’s certainly true for America.

Our nation has been so shaped by Christianity that even a lot of secular people in America follow biblical teachings, almost unwittingly I would argue, because they don’t always know that that’s what the Bible teaches, and that’s why we do it in America. They would think, “No, I do it because I’m a good person.”

Well, where did you learn to be a good person? It was the teachings of the Bible, often, that shaped our culture, even to impact people today. When we talk about generosity, how much our nation gives, and how much we want to help people; or, if we talked about the idea that we’re supposed to do good to other people, love our neighbors as ourself, and treat other people the way we want to be treated; a lot of the notions which we embrace come from Christianity.

But, the reason I bring it up is, if we ask the question Is Christianity growing or shrinking in America? It all depends on what kind of Christianity we’re talking about because certainly there is hostility toward Christianity. There is an increase of people embracing secular ideas.

It seems like even many people that identify as Christian are not living godly lives. But, is that the segment we’re talking about when we refer to “Christian;” or, is there a remnant of Christians who follow the Bible, and that remnant is growing? It would really depend on how we define “Christianity;” and again, this is where definitions make a big difference as to even helping us have an honest conversation.

RICK:

Well, Glenn Stanton’s a great person to have on the program to talk about that. In fact, this book that we mentioned that has come out, actually answers this question in an in-depth way. Rather than just taking it–what I tend to do sometimes, and how do I feel like is the answer to this question, based on where culture seems to be going or what the commentary seems to be on Facebook and those sorts of things.

Glenn’s actually documented it. So, he’s gone in to see Is Christianity shrinking in America? And, if so, like you said, Tim, What definition of Christianity? What denomination?

So,we’re going to have him on the program to talk about his new book The Myth of the Dying Church. Is it actually a myth? Glenn Stanton is our special guest when we return on WallBuilders Live!

Front Sight Handgun Training Course

RICK:

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RICK:

Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live! Glenn Stanton is with us. Glenn thanks for coming on man.

Welcome Glenn Stanton

GLENN STANTON:

Hey thank you, Rick. Good to be with you.

RICK:

Director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family; that’s a mouthful, brother.

GLENN STANTON:

That is; but, it’s what I do. I try to do it every day.

RICK:

Well, you’re the author of like–what do you have? Eight books out now?

GLENN STANTON:

I have just finished my ninth book on what we’re going to talk about: The Myth of the Dying Church and looking at if Christianity shrinking or not.

RICK:

Well, you’re on the frontlines of that. I mean, you guys, obviously Focus on the Family has been on the frontlines for decades. And, part of what you do is measure a lot of what’s happening in the nation.

And, I hear this all the time, “The Church is shrinking, churches are dying. , everybody’s walking away from the faith.” It’s almost always a negative report not typically backed up by much in stats. So,that’s a really good question to answer today.

The Myth of the Dying Church

The Myth of the Dying Church: you’re saying it’s a myth; we’re not dying as a Church.

GLENN STANTON:

Well, it’s not; but, like you said, I mean, you hear it all the time. You hear it from the secular media and from Christians. Oftentimes,unfortunately, it’s preceded by “as we all know, dot-dot-dot.”

“You know, young people are leaving the Church.” “We’re growing more secular.” “These nonbelievers are growing.”

But, the issue is–in a way, curiously, if you look at some of the numbers, it’s true. But, when you look at the larger numbers and the larger research, it’s just absolutely not true. And, let me just give you an example.

Is Christianity shrinking? Are people leaving the Church? Yes.

Is Christianity shrinking? 

But, here’s the deal; and, the data is just overwhelming. It’s not even a question. They are leaving the liberal, compromising churches, the mainline churches, if you will.

Those churches that say, “Well, Jesus was not really God,” or, “We can ordain gay pastors,” and, “Yes, abortion is a wonderful thing;” people are leaving those churches in droves.

RICK:

You mean, like lukewarm. In other words, they are spewing these lukewarm churches out. Right?

GLENN STANTON:

You know what? Yes. And, it’s like somebody said something a long time ago about “separating the wheat and the tares.”

But, the evangelical churches, those churches that teach Scripture, calling people to discipleship, that have vibrant worship; those churches are holding solid. It is almost as if, you teach the Word of God and are faithful to it, God will honor that, and the Holy Spirit will continue to use it. That’s exactly what we’re seeing today.

So,the wrong kinds of churches are shrinking. The good kinds of churches are holding strong and growing in some ways. And, I don’t know if many people would see that as bad news.

RICK:

Yes, and that’s so different from what you just kind of–if you’re not studying it, just the feeling you get when you hear all the negative stories. And, I think part of it is because of the conversations in our little bubbles we live in on Facebook and whatnot. You kind of start thinking, Well, the only churches that are gonna grow in this culture are the ones that are gonna be lukewarm, soft on sin, and say, “Everybody, no matter what you’re doing, Jesus will love you anyway; don’t worry about actually changing your behavior when you come to Christ.”

Which Churches Are Growing?

You think and get this sense that that would be the only Church that would grow in this culture. And, what you’re saying is the opposite is actually true, probably because people get there and their needs aren’t actually met because they don’t actually change their life for the better.

GLENN STANTON:

Well, that’s exactly right. And, you pointed it out in such a good way. We hear today, “Unless the Church gets with the times, opens itself to everybody;” which means gay,  lesbians, transgender people, all that kind of stuff, “it’s going to die.”

But, as I point out in the book, simple research–and this is research by two very friendly, gay sociology scholars: one from Columbia, one from UCLA. They looked at same-sex attracted people; when they go to church, what kind of churches are they likely to go to? And, they were expecting to find the rainbow flag waving that welcomes all.

They found that same-sex attracted-identified people who go to church are 2.5 times more likely to go to what they called “non-affirming, non-welcoming churches,” which basically means those churches holding to Scriptural teaching on sexuality and things like that.

Same-sex attracted individuals are 2.5 times more likely to attend those churches. And, here’s the deal. Maybe those people are finding that those churches aren’t hateful, aren’t bigoted, but they’re actually quite kind.

A Whole-Milk Church

And, if people are going to wake up on Sunday morning and go to the trouble to go to church, they want what I call a “whole-milk church.” They don’t want skim-milk church.

RICK:

Right.

GLENN STANTO:

They want where the Scriptures are taught, even if those churches don’t “affirm” these people’s sexuality. They’re looking for the real thing, and they find that real Christians are quite loving or quite kind, and they’re the kind of people that they’d rather hang out with. So,that’s the thing.

And, what this is, just tons of research says this. This is not picking here and there.

RICK:

I think people that are listening now, probably, as they internalize that, it makes sense to them. I know it does to me. As you’re saying that, I’m going, “Okay, look; we all have sinned and have to deal with sin.” I’ve actually–when I walk away from Church, almost every time that I say, “Man, that was a good sermon,” it’s because it convicted me.

GLENN STANTON:

Right.

RICK:

It’s because in that sermon, there was something that I went, “Oh wow; that’s so good. I need to change that my life and want to do better.” And, when it’s milk toast, and there’s nothing that I’m going, “Okay, yes, that needs to be fixed,” I don’t usually walk away from that goin, “Wow, that was a great sermon.” Obviously, done in love, all those things, we  almost have to say that every time.

But, a sermon that convicts you, is usually the one you go home saying, “Man, that was good. I can’t wait to work on this in my life.” So, I would think that applies to everyone, regardless of what area of sin they’re dealing with.

People Are Looking for What’s Real

GLENN STANTON:

No, and that’s exactly right. And, the other is just as straight out: “You know what? I’m here at church for a reason. And, Pastor, that was just a substantive message from God’s Word, where I learned something. The worship–these people around me were acting as if they really do believe God has saved them and that they’re thankful,” as opposed to the mainline churches where, if there’s no such thing as sin, salvation, a real Cross, and a real Resurrection, usually we’ll have nothing to praise God about.

RICK:

Yes

GLENN STANTON:.

Everybody sees that, and nobody is going to those kinds of churches because–I like to say it this way: “They don’t have any active ingredients.”

RICK:

That’s good.

The Holy Spirit’s Presence…The Active Ingredients

GLENN STANTON:

The active ingredient that’s really in the Bible churches is teaching the Bible and the Holy Spirit being there. That’s another thing we can’t under state, the way the Holy Spirit draws people in. As I say in the book, this idea that the Church is shrinking is not only bad sociology, it’s bad theology.

Is the Holy Spirit on a break or taking a vacation? Is He sick? No.

GLENN STANTON:

The Holy Spirit in every age of the Church continues in an irresistible way, if you will, drawing people to the Gospel. And, He is still doing that today and will continue to do it next year and in the coming decades. So, we need to understand that a good theology of the Holy Spirit can cannot tolerate that Oh my goodness; people are turning away from the Gospel left and right in big droves.

Faithful Christianity

RICK:

You distinguish, Glenn, the idea of–I think the phrase you refer to is “faithful Christianity.” So, tell me about that strong Christianity that actually adheres to a biblical worldview, doesn’t just claim the Name of Jesus, but actually follows the commands of Jesus. Tell me a little bit about that.

It’s Like Choosing a Gym

GLENN STANTON:

That’s exactly right. {It is} faithful Christianity, vibrant Christianity, or as I call it, “muscular Christianity,” that God is awarding. It’s what God is blessing.

And, it is kind of like if you equated church to a gym where they call you to work out and push yourself, as opposed to a gym where you can just sit over there in the chair, and  they’re not going to really call you to anything. Guess what. Where are people going to go gym-wise?

They’re going to go to the one because they want to be pushed. That’s why people are going to the gym. It’s not always fun  or easy; but, that’s what people want spiritually. And, God, again is rewarding that. And, the thing that I ask people is: When you hear this idea of  people leaving the Church in droves, look at your own Church. Has your youth group shut down so that your youth pastor and staff are no longer employed?

There may be  some mom-and-pop churches here that are dying. But, it’s simply because they just don’t have any real vibrancy. Even though the pastor may teach from the Scripture, he’s not interesting or applicable.

But, the churches that do that, that call people to real worship, real discipleship, service to their community, to the love of Christ, and that teach Scripture; we see that, left and right in our communities, those churches are thriving. And, their youth groups are even thriving.

Applicable

RICK:

Yes, and the word you used “applicable,” that’s really it. When that sermon convicts you in a way and then gives you application of how to go out and live a biblical worldview, not just theorize about it or only study, but actually say “Hey, this is how this fits in this culture, in this day, with your family, with you relationships, with your work,” actually applying Scripture. Imagine that.

Those are the churches, you’re saying, that are thriving because people are able to go home and use what they’re learning on Sunday morning.

GLENN STANTON:

Yes, that’s exactly right. A piece of research that I present in the book: they were looking at liberal and conservative churches–and these are some mainline sociologists. And, they were questioning the mainline pastors and the conservative pastors. This was one of the questions they asked them: Do you believe or not believe that Christians have a special power and a special kind of dynamism in their life that is not available to people of other faiths?

In the mainline pastors, there was not one pastor who agreed with that statement. Think about that. That is–who wants to go to a church like that?

That’s like–not to equate it to merchandise–but, a car dealer. “Do you believe that a Ford  provides quality, is trustworthy,” and things like that, “more than other cars?”

“No, pretty much all the cars are pretty much the same.”

“Hey, let’s go down and get a Ford.”

RICK:

Right.

Pastors, Please Don’t Pervert Christiantity

GLENN STANTON:

That’s how these liberal pastors are. It’s just goofy. It’s like Why are you in this business if you don’t believe what you believe? 

And, I always like to say, “Methodists, Episcopalians, you pastors in those denominations that don’t believe anything; there’s a place for you called ‘Unitarian Universalism.’ Go over there, but don’t try to pervert real Christianity with your kind of manby-pamby beliefs.”

RICK:

The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World, available now. It’s only been out a few weeks. Go get it; it will encourage you.

Glenn Stanton, appreciate you, brother. Let’s do it again soon.

GLENN STANTON:

I’d like to. Thank you, man.

RICK:

Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.

Constitution Alive!

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But, it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.

Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive! with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution.  You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And, it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.

The Answer: A Biblical Worldview

RICK:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live! We’re back with David and Tim Barton. Special thanks to Glenn Stanton, author of The Myth of the Dying Church.

We’ll have links today to make it easy for you to get that book. David, Tim, this is almost like Good-News-Friday program here. I was going into this going, “Oh man, I don’t wanna hear bad news about how we have fewer and fewer Christians in America.”

It sounds to me like if you’re actually taking a biblical worldview, teaching it, and making that view applicable where people can use it in their lives, the Church is actually doing well.

Defining Terms

DAVID:

Yes, and the key here is, again, how you define “church.” Tim mentioned it early on; Glenn mentioned it in the middle. When we talk about the Church and Christianity, we’re not talking about everything that calls itself “Christian” or everything that calls itself the “Church.”

Actually, the term we’re using is “biblical Christianity.” And, the good news is that biblical Christianity is strong and growing but, non-biblical Christianity, if there be such a thing–and, I would argue that doesn’t even exist, except in name only–that’s what’s not doing well. And, it’s like–there’s a great thing where Jesus is telling His disciples.

He said, “Listen, guys,” in Matthew 7. He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ is going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of my Father.”

Just because you say it doesn’t mean you are. You have to be doing the right things. And so, that’s what Glenn’s talking about here: the churches that actually put God’s Word into practice and actually focus on what He says–and, by the way, I thought he had some great analogies.

When he was talking about how you don’t go to a gym to just sit in a gym where you’re not pushed. You go there to get pushed because you want some challenges at a gym. So, when you go to a Church–and, Rick, you even made the comment that you think it’s a good sermon when you get convicted by it. Guess what.

That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit says He does. Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit  in John 6 and John 16 where He says, “The Holy Spirit will convict in regard to sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” So,the Holy Spirit is active.

You can feel pressed, pushed, and convicted.

If It’s Not Relevant….

TIM:

And, to that point, I wouldn’t want to go to a church if I didn’t feel like I was getting something out of it, to go and sit there and listen to a sermon that doesn’t relate to me, challenge me to be a better person, or change my behavior based on what the Bible says. If I sit there and go, “Okay, I’ve heard all this. This means nothing.” Maybe the pastor’s kind of funny, or trendy, or whatever.

Like, I understand why people would say, “let me just go to the lake instead,” or, “Let me sleep in instead.” If it’s not relevant, why would you want to be there? And, this is why, as was pointed out, there’s a lot of dying churches in America.

What is Dying

But, what’s dying is not the Bible, the Gospel, or what is true. What’s dying is the facade that wants to embrace Jesus in name, not in behavior. And, this is even where, if you think about the book of James, where James is very clear that “faith without works is dead,” right?

Belief is not enough. James is challenging believers: “Guys, you think that just because you believe, that’s all it matters? No.”

Like, even the devil believes and trembles; demons believe and tremble. It is a challenge that we shouldn’t just go to church to hear that that there is faith, God loves us, and He forgives our sins; although, that’s huge. I’m not downplaying that; everybody needs to hear that message in their life.

I just don’t need to hear it every single week. If that’s the only thing I’m hearing and not being challenged to go live a more godly life and be the better husband, father, boss, employee–right? Whatever it is, there ought to be something relevant, or else, why am I going?

DAVID:

Well, I like what Glenn said about people wanting a whole-milk church, not a skim-milk church. They really do want those active ingredients. People want something that has substance to it.

And, I thought that was really interesting that the study pointed out that homosexuals are 2.5 times more likely to attend non-affirming churches. It’s Where are they going to get pushed, challenged, and hear some harder stuff that may not comport with their lifestyle that  they have to think through?

Man Doesn’t Live by Bread Alone

That’s the kind of stuff that will produce change. And, when Jesus said, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone; he lives by every word that comes from God’s mouth,” the stuff that comes from God’s mouth can be pretty hard stuff. Remember in John 6 when Jesus was teaching the crowds?

They just got offended and left because they said, “Man, this is a hard teaching; who can handle this?” But, the disciples stayed with him and ended up changing the world. So,it’s not always just easy stuff.

You do get challenged in a gym and end up with sore muscles;  but, you become stronger as a result. And, the good news is that kind of church and Christianity, if you will, that that “muscle Christianity” is what’s doing good in America. And, the really weak, nonexistent, non-definition Christianity; Christianity in name only, is what’s dying off.

That really is healthy for the nation. But, it does mean that people really do need to get connected in a church that teaches biblical truth: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Is Christianity and Faith in God Shrinking in America?

RICK:

Hopefully it’s a challenge to churches out there to make sure that they are teaching that good, applicable, biblical truth and making disciples of all men, not just the Salvation message, but also then How do you walk and work this out? As Paul said, “Work out your salvation.” How do you apply it and actually live it out in the day-to-day life of our relationships, work, and our purpose in life?

All of those things, we just we need the churches to be more relevant in terms of applying it to our life.

So, great message today. Thanks so much for listening to Glenn Stanton, our guest who we appreciate being on. And, we’ll have links to the book at our website WallBuildersLive.com.

Thank you so much for listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!