Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”
“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see. (John 9:39-41)
Read: Psalm 119
Relate: There are some who would say that the church in the western world is in decline. They would say that more and more people are leaving the church disillusioned and discontented. The world has finally moved beyond the need for the crutch that is religion and as society grows and evolves, we are shedding our former faith like a coat that no longer fits. Those who would say this point to surveys like the American Religious survey in 2008 that showed that those who identify themselves as Christian has dropped ten percent in two decades while those who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled during the same time. They would also mention the PEW survey taken a few years later that shows an even greater rate of increase among those with no religious identification over the past five years. Christianity is in decline.
I say that is a good thing.
Yes, you read that right. The decrease in numbers among those who claim to be Christian is a good thing. It makes for a healthier church better equipped to do its mission.
Go ahead. Rub your eyes. Read those last few sentences one more time. You’re not imagining things. Now let me explain.
At the end of John chapter nine, Jesus makes a claim that it is better to be truly blind than to claim to see while being spiritually blind in truth. In America and the Western world today there are three types of “Christians”. There’s the C&E Christians, the bench warmers, and the real deal. It is in those first two categories that the church is in decline and I’m glad for it because both those groups are, like the Pharisees, deceiving themselves.
The C&E Christians are those who have little to no true religious affiliation. They might show up a couple times a year (Christmas and Easter) to the church around the corner or the one their cousin/sibling/grandparent attends. When they get married it will happen in that church and that pastor/priest might speak at their funeral but that is about as close as they come to having anything to do with Jesus. Culturally they are Christian and their values reflect a Judeo-Christian worldview, but in reality they are spiritually as blind as bats even though they claim to see. Fortunately their numbers, while still a significant chunk of Europe and America, are in decline.
The bench warmers are just as blind but actually in an even worse position. These are the people who will show up once, twice, maybe even four Sundays a month and sit in a pew. They will sing the songs. They will give a few bucks. They will listen to the preacher’s sermon, but they aren’t truly hearing it. When the service is over, they will go on their way fully convinced that they are Christian even as they continue to live a lifestyle that proves the lie. Even more than the C&E Christian, these folks are completely convinced, as they walk around in darkness, that they can see completely fine.
The final group is not in decline at all. This group is the real deal. They are the ones who live out what they believe. They have heard the truth and it has impacted their lives. Their blind eyes have been opened and the vision they now have impacts how they walk and talk. They are the true Church and the stats show that this group is actually on the rise.
React: So where do we sit? If we, were completely honest with ourselves, what group best describes us? If you fall into one of the first two groups I have one request. Either get out or get real. Stop claiming to be something you are not. Either quit claiming to be a follower of Christ (a Christian) or actually start following Him.
God, I ask that the self deception would end. I am grateful that more and more the group who claim Christianity without the lifestyle to back that claim is in decline. I ask that those who are only nominally Christian would recognize their blindness and chose to get real with their faith. Help us to find new and better ways to not simply create a culture of Christianity but rather an ever growing church of believers surrendered to You. God, I give my everything to You. Have it all.