Wednesday, July 29, 2009

do you have to be born into a christian home to hear about jesus?

Recently, in a very prominent article, Newsweek chronicled the decline of Christianity in America. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, was part of this discussion and had his own thoughts on the issue. From a completely different angle, Voddie Baucham has examined the rise of Islam in France and compares the birth rate between the native French and the immigrants from across the Muslim world. Voddie’s answer: Christians should have more kids. I believe that there is a connection between the shrinking western family and the decline of Christianity in the west. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the church is in decline any more or any less due to how much or how little we are evangelizing.  Said another way, the decline of Christianity has more to do with the shrinking size of the family than it does evangelism {and this is a travesty}. 
The logic goes like this:
  1. Church’s methodology centers on evangelizing those already in the church. The majority of baptisms come from the children of those already attending the church and not from outside the church network.
  2. couples are having fewer children than in yonder days
  3. therefore our evangelism numbers our down and the church is in decline.
So I pose the question, does one have to be born into a Christian home to hear the gospel?

It appears to be the case. This is a multifaceted issue, especially the way I have linked the decline of the church, in part, to the decline of the family. Unlike Voddie, I am not prescribing that the answer to the rise of Islam or the decline of Christianity has anything to do with family size or family integrated church (FIC). I am not prescribing that we should stop evangelizing our children. I do think it is a shame, however, that it appears that unless you are born into a Christian family you are destined to hell. We certainly should evangelize our families {and perhaps even have more children. In the new “immigrant America” we appear anti-family to most other cultures, and, not to be vulgar, weak and unmanly—its true}.

I was talking with a friend about all of this the other day. He is part of an FIC church, and he suggested that this was the way that it ought to be. God designed the family to carry down the gospel. I agree that the family is an ideal form for passing on the covenant, new or old, from generation to generation. We are even instructed to do so. This was how the old covenant was passed down. The problem was that Israel forgot that family, though important, was not the end in itself. Israel was to be a “light to the nations” {Isa 49:6, 51:4}. The covenant was for them and their children. They were to faithfully past it down from generation to generation. But they forgot that they were to be a blessing to all peoples {Gen 26:4}. Again, I do not suggest that we remove this element, only that this method by itself is insufficient. It seems that churches intent on reaching their own and the whole FIC crowd have also forgotten this.

Extended families, in many cultures, are the fastest venue for transmitting the gospel. But the gospel must jump from clan A to clan B, and from B to C, and so forth. Right now, churches are only reaching the people who are already there or people who are inclined to come and seek. It is the exception, not the rule, to find people who were saved outside the context of the immediate family or church attendance. The average church, not to mention the FIC crowd, seems to take this description as a prescription. Since, they think, most people are getting saved at a young age, or as a result of family, then this is obviously how God intended it and we should schedule our resources accordingly. On the positive side, this means that our children are getting saved. On the down side, it appears that unless the lost are our children, they will probably never hear the gospel. As our country becomes less “Christian” and as our families become smaller, we will see Christianity shrink since we are only reaching our blood kin. Again, this is not the result of more or less evangelism. Rather it is because we have reduced strategy to family only and we happen to be having smaller families.

So I leave you with the question, how do we get our churches to remedy the travesty of only reaching those who are culturally Christian or are directly related to our membership? In your circle, are people outside of your genealogy hearing about Christ, or is it only your children?

All of that said: I am grateful I was born in a christian home; but we need to reach out to those who aren't.

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