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Crazy times call for more God

Churches need to focus on 'more Jesus' — or risk “not being in the game” within a few decades amid a nationwide decline in church attendance, a pastor and church planter has said.
Churches need to focus on "more Jesus" — or risk “not being in the game” within a few decades amid a nationwide decline in church attendance, a pastor and church planter has said. | Pexels

These are crazy times. How does one retain sanity in these tumultuous days? Read the world’s best seller — and read it often — and it will give a great deal of comfort. Indeed, many of our great American leaders have found comfort and solace in the Word of God.

Want to change your life? Here’s a simple practice, which I have engaged in fastidiously for the last four years or so. Every day, in addition to other personal Bible reading and studying, I read the chapter of Proverbs for that day. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, just as many months have 31 days.

As I began this column on April 19th, I read my corresponding Proverbs for the day and came across Proverbs 19:23, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

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But many are troubled today because they have rejected God and the Church. In that connection, there was a recent article by Ira Stoll in, which provided evidence that the lack of church attendance may be bad for mental health.

After mentioning the potential deleterious effects of social media on children, Stoll pens, “Yet there’s another, non-technology possible contributor to the mental health crisis that’s getting less attention but may be just as significant. That is the decline in church attendance.”

Hmm. Interesting. Church attendance goes down. Mental health problems go up.

Stoll cites a Harvard Public Health study that suggested that the decline in church service attendance from 1991 to 2019 could account for nearly 30% of the rise in depression among teenagers.

Stoll also notes that a major review in 2022 of 215 studies (each with more than 1,000 participants), showed that: “Weekly religious service attendance is longitudinally associated with lower mortality risk, lower depression, less suicide, better cardiovascular disease survival, better health behaviors, and greater marital stability, happiness, and purpose in life.” More God, more peace.

Stoll adds, “plenty of mental-health clinicians I know see in religious-service attendance some of the habits and attitudes that can help to combat depression and anxiety. There’s the supportive community, the face-to-face interaction, the getting out of bed and out of the house, the sense of purpose and meaning, the expressions of gratitude and humility.”

In a blog for Psychology Today, Harvard professor of epidemiology Tyler VanderWeele notes the downturn for today’s youth: “Relatively speaking, young people are not doing as well as they once were. They report being less happy and less healthy; having less meaning, greater struggles with character, and poorer relationships; and less financially stable compared to their older counterparts. The differences in well-being with age were, in fact, much larger than they were for gender or for race. Some of the issue may also pertain to a crisis in meaning.”

Life can be painful. Life without meaning and purpose can be unbearable. But life has meaning because there is a God, and He has revealed Himself in creation and in the Holy Scriptures. Through the years, many noteworthy Americans allowed themselves to be shaped by the Bible.

George Washington read the Bible so frequently, that many of its phrases come out in his speeches and writings. Appendix 2 of the book I co-wrote with Peter Lillback, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, demonstrates this. It’s as if you were to cut him, he would bleed Scripture.

When Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Polly died in 1804, his other daughter Martha came upon him, and remarked that she “found him with the Bible in his hands seeking consolation from the Sacred Volume."

Abraham Lincoln read the Bible all the time. It comes out in his speeches too. Chiseled in stone at the Lincoln Memorial are some of them, including his Second Inaugural Address. That speech alone has three direct Bible quotes.

When he received a gift of a Bible, the 16th president noted, “All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong.”

Ronald Reagan once said, “Inside the Bible’s pages lie the answers to all the problems that mankind has ever known. I hope Americans will read and study the Bible.”    

Despite those who would reject virtually anything Christianity would have to offer, the invitation of Jesus to those who will listen still stands: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Even in our highly secular age, multiple studies show that good things come from walking with God, in prayer, through His Word, and attending church.

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the executive director of the Providence Forum, an outreach of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air host. He has written/co-written 33 books, including George Washington’s Sacred Fire (with Providence Forum founder Peter Lillback, Ph.D.) and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (with D. James Kennedy, Ph.D.).    @newcombejerry

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