America has had an explosion of megachurches in the past decade. The term "megachurch" is generally applied to congregations that average 2,000 or more in worship, but many of these megachurches have attendance in the tens of thousands. We also have Christian colleges rapidly expanding in size, some with up to 100,000 students. Some Christian books sell in the millions, and there are Christian radio and television networks worth billions of dollars. We have never seen anything like this.
Yet all these visible indicators are misleading; something else is also going on that tells a very different story. Respected sources such as Lifeway, George Barna and Duke University report that although the number of megachurches has increased at a brisk rate (from 600 in 2000 to 1,642 in 2017), at the same time, national church attendance is steadily falling (from 41 percent to 36 percent), and the median size of all churches is only 70 congregants.
So the growth of megachurches is a false positive. And although some Christian colleges are rapidly growing, many have become so secular it is not unusual for kids who attend them to abandon the faith. In fact, a coalition of approximately 200 Christian colleges and universities has experienced loss of its members because they can no longer agree on things as simple as the Biblical definition of marriage and acceptable sexual behavior.
It is our understanding that this organization offered associate membership status for those so-called "Christian" schools that, in direct opposition to plain Biblical teachings, affirmed homosexuality and homosexual "marriage." Several authentically Biblical colleges appropriately left the organization in protest. At that point, the two anti-Biblical colleges left the organization, but the once stellar reputation of the coalition was tarnished.
The same is true for the other seemingly positive measurements. Many simply are not accurate portrayals of the Christian landscape. We speak in many conferences, addressing numerous pastors each year. When we ask local pastors how many of them pastor in communities measurably more righteous today than a generation ago, no one has ever raised a hand. So, despite the billions of dollars spent and millions of hours expended in Christian ministry, the nation is less reflective of Christian values than ever before. To be blunt, the nation is going to hell.
America has shown great resiliency in the past, surviving other challenges, including numerous wars and even a bloody Civil War. Yet all great nations eventually came to an end, including the Assyrians, Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, Persians and many others. They came. They flourished. They rose to world status. They remained strong for generations. They assumed they would always be in power. They all fell.
The same fate may await the United States. America is in serious trouble today. She is not what she was even a generation ago. Selfishness has been substituted for service, arrogance for humility, entitlement for hard work, and personal pleasure for duty and responsibility. And even worse, many Americans are either oblivious or ambivalent to this precipitous slippage.
The de-Christianizing of American public life and the open rejection of our historic Biblical foundations has resulted in a nation exploding in crime, sexual anarchy, wrecked homes and lives, leaving massive human pain and carnage in its wake.
Who is to blame for the dramatic downturn of American culture? There are many groups and movements it is tempting to blame. But truth be told, the fault cannot be laid solely at the feet of the secularists — or liberal academia, activist judges, hostile media, tone-deaf politicians, or any of the other groups openly attacking our foundations. No doubt each of these has contributed much to the damage done to the nation, but America is in deep trouble primarily because the Church in America has become largely impotent and irrelevant – it no longer functions collectively as salt and light and is neither a preservative in the culture nor a guiding beacon for the nation to follow.
Churches should no longer be judged on how many attend but rather on how many move into truly Biblical thinking and action in all spheres of today's culture. The Church must again become the proactive change agent so desperately needed in America right now.