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Is The Church Shrinking?

As we see an increase in the 'non religious' or 'unaffiliated' religious preferences grow in government censuses and religious surveys and the numbers of self identified 'christians' get small each year, we tend to think the Church is shrinking.  Even most denominations and nondenominational churches show a slow but steady decline of church membership.  Does all this indicate the Body of Christ, the people group set aside by God himself as first fruits for his Son and The Bride of Christ; shrinking?

To come to truly know the answer we must first understand something about the Church.  There are those who claim to be Christian, and there are those who are Christian. There are those who visibly and outwardly try and do 'good' because they claim to be Christian and then there are those who are invisibly saved who outwardly strive to do 'good' because they are Christian.  The visible and invisible church.

The Visible Church

The Visible Church consists of every person who claims to follow Christ and tries to do good.  Attending church, volunteering, reading the bible, singing worship songs, even agree to essential elements of the Christian faith.  This includes those who are NOT actually saved.  ANYONE can attend church, volunteer, read the bible, sing worship songs, and agree with essential Christian teachings.  Demons believe in essential Christian teachings and atheists do volunteer work and read religious texts; they may even like the sound of some worship songs.  They may be agnostic, or even do all these things because they actually worship themselves.  There are goats, sheep, and wolves in sheep's clothing all mixed in with the visible claim of 'Christian'.

Some in the visible church try to use outward works to change their inward problem.  That is religion and not salvation.

The Invisible Church

The Invisible church only consists of those who God has actually set apart.  Those who are actually born again, spiritually alive, and written in the book of life.  These people are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and produce fruit of the Spirit.  Their absolute heart change is manifested in a visible way.  But only they know for sure, and God knows them for sure.  It is invisible to everyone else; except through the fruit their spirit produces. They have saving faith in the Gospel message.

These people have been changed by God inwardly and it compels them to outwardly worship God.

Who is leaving the church?

Those who are internally transformed and made born again; are transformed for all eternity.  Even though they may backslide, they will always be drawn back to repentance and restored.  In other words, the Invisible Church will never lose numbers.  Those who are truly saved in the visible church, may leave temporarily but again, because they are truly saved, they will be drawn back and restored.  That leaves those who, in the visible church, who leave, and never come back; were never actually part of the true Church of God to begin with.  These Carnal Christians eventually lose interest with the Christian Faith and move on to another different life styles and ideologies.  Those are the ones who are leaving the church.

America VS World Wide

Let us not forget America does not represent the whole world.  The church may seem to be shrinking in America, but in China, India, Brazil and other parts of the world it is growing exponentially.  There are probably more true Christians in China than in America.  The True Church is alive and well.

Is "Shrinking" a Bad Thing?

Is it a bad thing it is shrinking in America? No.  The Holy Spirit is essentially weeding out those who are not actually saved.  The Parable of The Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) is awesome with this issue.  Notice that even the servants recognized the Weeds in the Wheat.  Being able to recognize the Weeds from the Wheat is rather simple as well:  Matthew 7:13-29 hits this dead on. The "shrinking" helps expose their fruit.  "every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit".   The shrinking of the American church will help expose those who are not actually part of The Body of Christ so that they can be reached in love and hope of repentance.  Shrinking is just revealing what was already true; those who were never born again and regenerated in the first place.

Why Are People Leaving?

Its simple. Either their idol is their self or their faith was in sinful people.  Regardless, their faith was not in Christ and the Gospel Message.  They would claim to be 'christian' so that they felt justified in their sins or they claimed to be Christian so they would feel like they fit in or belong somewhere; without believing in Jesus Christ.  For all these reasons, people lose faith in the church because it is made up of sinners.  Or if they use the church to justify themselves they will get bored or offended and move to something else they feel will justify their lifestyle and sins.  They ultimately leave because they were never regenerated and born again in the first place.  They tried and maintained the 'christian' lifestyle but for one reason or another felt like moving on.

Apostasy 

Apostasy means to fall away from the truth.  The truth is the Christian Faith.  "Without Faith It is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith is the absolute trust in the Gospel Message.  In John 14:6 Jesus clearly states "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me". THEREFORE:  The Christian Faith is the only true faith for salvation and rightness with God by God and through God.  Leaving Christianity for another religion (or unaffiliation or no religious preference or atheism) is committing apostasy.  Apostasy is a fruit produced when there is no faith in Christ.  But it is not just leaving the church, Apostasy is falling away from the truth.  A church that teaches a different gospel, commits apostasy.  Galatians 1:8 states "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!"  It doesn't matter WHO preaches a different gospel, if it is different than the one proclaimed in scripture, it is apostasy.

Why Do People Stay?

Those who remain in the church understand the church is made up of sinners.  They understand that the church is imperfect.  They also believe in Christ as the only way to God and relief from their sin.  They know God and God has called them.  They have an unwavering hope in Christ and his promise of perfect salvation and eternity with God.  They know the Gospel Message is true and believe it in absolute faith.  That even though they do not like how the church may act throughout history, they know that it is Christ's and he is in control.

Summery

The Invisible church is made up of all those who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Visible church is made up of everyone and anyone who claims to be 'christian'.  As worldly or selfish pleasures mount, the visible church will lose some 'members'  but that does not mean the true church lost anyone.  As people drop out of going to church and lose their religion, those who are chosen by God may still increase.  Declining church membership can be a good thing; it helps expose those who need to believe in the gospel and helps true believers see their actual brothers in sisters in Christ.

Apostasy WILL grow.  More and more people will reject their once claim of faith in Jesus.  Scripture already warns us of this which is why a shrinking church should not come as a surprise.

We should also not worry because Christ is still head of the church and is God.  The church is moving exactly how God wills it to.  People are coming as God calls them and leave as God allows them.  God is sovereign over the church's condition.



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