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By: Larry Wilson
Markleville, Indiana – Fewer people are identifying with any religion. More than one-in-five American adults — the highest in U.S. history — are being identified as the religious “nones.” They have no religious affiliation and as they grow in size, they are also gaining political power.
Meanwhile, more Hollywood celebrities are coming out as favorable to Christianity or identifying as Christ-followers (Matthew McConaughey, Gwen Stefani, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris to mention a few). The discrepancy seems paradoxical but following Christ has never been about building big numbers. It has been about building disciples. The call of Christ is a call to death, the cross, sacrifice, perseverance. That many people are leaving churches or giving up on faith is no surprise to Pastor Larry Wilson. He says Christianity has always grown best under the most adverse circumstances and persecution.
In Being Jesus’ Disciple (Rose) Wilson explains what it actually means to follow Christ – from a biblical perspective. That fewer Americans identify as Christians is simply a weeding out process, a normal separation of those who are true disciples from those who attend church for motives other than honoring God or His will. Faith has always been about something much bigger than self; something that transforms us and changes those we come into contact with – as early disciples did.
He explains how spiritual disciplines and discipleship reveal our heart, strengthens our faith, and builds the church rather than pulls it down. Yet, Wilson points out that not everyone who was called to faith in Christ followed Him. Some did for political reasons, some because they thought He would overthrow the government, and still others because He met their need for food or healing. That, explains Wilson, is partly what is happening in American churches – parishioners looking to the church to satisfy their need for acceptance, entertainment, or simply to make themselves feel better.
As the church remains faithful to its original calling, more times of persecution, ridicule, and isolation will undoubtedly create more of an exit by half-hearted church-goers.