We hear about it all the time. Churches are closing. We have less Christians than we used to. People aren’t attending church with the same consistency.
Is the Kingdom shrinking?
The Bible talks about an ever expanding kingdom. The Kingdom is like a mustard seed that, though small, grows into an invasive plant that expands all over the place. The Kingdom is like sowing seed that produces a harvest 100 times what was sown. If the Kingdom is shrinking, that isn’t aligned with God’s desire for His Kingdom.
The Kingdom isn’t shrinking. The Kingdom is expanding.
The Kingdom is exploding in various places around the globe. There are now more Christians in China than in the US. Christianity is exploding in the global South. There are more people being reached, worldwide, than what was happening a few decades ago.
I am also not entirely convinced the Kingdom is shrinking in America. People are moving out of institutional church and where they go is very hard to track and quantify.
There are three temptations when seeing Kingdom retraction:
First, it gets easy to work from a scarcity perspective – that we are all trying to work from the same limited resources but God is not limited by our perception of how things are going.
Second, it is also easy to see our opportunities as a zero sum game – that there are only so many people who might want to walk in the doors of your church and we are all trying to get the same people. But God is not limited in who He can send…it may just be that we are limited in our ability to receive and our willingness to go out (as we were told to do).
Third is selection bias. It is tempting to think our experience is a universal (or at least majority) experience. Not all churches are struggling and not all congregational loss in attendance is kingdom loss.
It is time we step out and claim territory for Jesus and His Kingdom. Claim your neighborhood for Him…engage the people around you. Pray with them and for them. Study with them. And even if no one responds – just keep at it. Try the next neighborhood over…try the local prison…try juvenile detention. The harvest is plentiful but are we going out? Or do we let our hearts be troubled and allow discouragement to get us off track?
It is interesting how we do not seem to be able to have a global view of Kingdom Anything outside of the US is… what? Outer space??
Of course, if you look throughout history, you see the same as what we observe now: The “moving” of the Body, the Kingdom It started in the 1st century – compare John’s letter to the Body in Ephesus with what Paul wrote, but a few decades earlier! The loss of that “first love” happened within 4 decades!
We should spend more time focusing on here and now, maybe? What we do today, rather than what was done in the past or might be done in the future.
Matt, I believe that you nailed it when you stated that only the institutional church can be tracked and quantified. I believe that this happening for a reason. If our Western culture continues to become more antagonistic towards orthodox Christians, this current trend of “going underground “ may well be God’s way of preserving a faithful remnant. Just look at where the KOG is advancing. You don’t see big church buildings with large congregations being openly advertised. I believe that we’re headed for a time that feels quite similar to first century Christianity.