Christianity is now the leading global religion and the largest in the world. It is no longer endemic to the areas where it originated — the Middle East — and the regions where it thrived and spread – the developed West, such as the United States and the EU nations and Australia and South America. It has crossed borders and Christianity is now found globally.
The current 2.2 billion Christian population is also projected to increase to 2.6 billion by the year 2020. The Christian population was 1.2 billion in 1970. These are some of the figures revealed in the study, Christianity In Its Global Context, 1970-2010, which was conducted by the US-based Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.
You can read all about it in online newspaper, Christian Post’s, recent article: http://www.christianpost.com/news/study-2-6-billion-of-world-population-expected-to-be-christian-by-2020-100402/
The bad news, however, is that Christianity is declining in all the traditionally Christian regions of North America, Europe and Latin America . In Canada, the United States, Europe, and Latin America, the Christian populations are dropping. (See the Christian Post report for figures)
I don’t know if this trend can be arrested. If it can’t be, then it indicates yet another end times sign as Jesus said in Matthew 24:10 “At that time many will turn away from the faith … .” But, Jesus also said about His sheep that “no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28)”. In other words, those who belong to Him will not turn away from Him. But, we have to help them.
People have a variety of reasons for abandoning their faith. Whatever their reasons, it is very likely that they hovered in the periphery of Christian life for while before they actually crossed over, never to step back again.
As a former fringe Christian myself, I can confidently say that the surest way of bringing back such Christians is to reach out to them. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
To reach out, you need a personal relationship with them. If you don’t relate with them you can’t reach out to them.
To be fair and with all due respect to leaders, I do not believe that leaders do not reach out. They do and try, but they do not succeed. And, when they fail, they give up, giving reasons that sound more like excuses such as “He is anti-Christian”, “He is too aggressive”, “She is too smart for her own good”, “She is too hot”, “She’s a woman”, “He’s a man” etc, etc, etc …. .
The underlying reason really is that most people, leaders included, do not know how to relate with people who are very different from them.
It is easy to relate with people like yourself. That is natural – you know, birds of a feather flock together! But many Christians in your congregations or organizations are not of the same feather.
They may belong to a different social class, culture, colour, race, nationality, mindset, status, etc., etc. Many fringe Christians have one or more of the above characteristics. If leaders don’t learn how to cross these differences and embrace them, these Christians will always feel like they don’t belong, or, if they do, it would be only superficially. Eventually, they opt out!
Relating to people of differences is not an easy thing to do because it is not an inborn skills sets. It has to be acquired. There’s no one better to learn from than our Lord Himself – Jesus is God but He reached out to man! And when He walked on Earth as man, He related with the lepers, the social outcasts, the prostitutes and He gave no excuses!
Relationships begin with talking in a face-to-face relationship. This may be hard in big churches — all the more reason why there should be greater prayer and allocation of resources for the raising, training and employing of more pastors in church so that the leaders and members ratio is at a comfortable level!
People are encouraged when leaders relate with them. At the same time, leaders will know their congregation and spot those who need help, including the fringe Christians. Despite the differences, the relationships will keep the struggling Christians within the ambit of Christian life.
When we do this, we stop excluding those who have issues and don’t conform as expected. We find the faith in Him to reach out to them. We may not get it right at first; but we will at some point! The end result, I believe, is that our churches will become inclusive multi-cultural communities and not the homogenous ones we are presently; we will be embracing everyone of every stripe and excluding no one, as the Bride of Christ should be!
When you are in the boat and the storm is surging, there’s nothing worse than being alone in it. When there’s a Peter or a John or a Matthew or Luke or a Paul or even a Martha, it makes the struggle of faith a whole lot bearable; it is a strong reason to stay because you have some evidence that He is still in the boat!
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