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The state of the church: What is the new normal?

by Bob Shillingstad
| May 9, 2020 1:00 AM

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” — Psalm 19:7

How will our country be changed during this lockdown? How have views changed about our Christian faith and relationship to church during this time to be alone?

A new Barna poll points to a dramatic drop in biblical beliefs among American Pentecostals and Charismatics. Although we proclaim “In God We Trust” on our currency, a slim 51% majority of Americans believe in a biblical view of God — down from 73% 30 years ago. Here are some of their other findings; “Stunningly, Americans are more confident about the existence of Satan than they are of God. Overall, 56% contend that Satan is an influential spiritual being, yet almost half (49%) are not fully confident that God truly exists.”

Now, on the positive side the Joshua Fund in March found that 43.4% of all respondents say yes, we are experiencing a “wake-up call” from God. One-in-five non-Christians polled said the crisis is causing them to start reading the Bible and listen to Bible teaching and Christian sermons online even though they usually don’t search online to learn more about Bible prophecy and God’s plan for the future of mankind, and have more spiritual conversations with family and friends.

For Christians it has also been a time of deeper spiritual connection with four-in-10 respondents saying they are reading the Bible more than ever, watching or listening to Bible teaching and Christian sermons online and searching online to understand God’s plan for the future of mankind.

All of this is reflected in record numbers of Bible app downloads and traditional print Bible sales saw a dramatic rise in April as did Google searches for “prayer” and “Christianity.”

In February, we highlighted the “First Great Awakening” and how that united the colonies and led to the revolution. There have been several “awakenings” in our history and they seem to happen about once a generation — about every 70 years. Each one is different in leadership and scope, the “second awakening” in the early 19th century will amaze you when you read about it.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying that, “History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes.” Will we have a country that rejects God or will there be another awakening or revival? In the second half of the 1700s there were two competing philosophies — a conventional Christian worldview or the influence of the “enlightenment and philosophers like Jean Rousseau that rejected God and stated that man is the measure of all things.

Fortunately our founders rejected the philosophy of the enlightenment and based our government on biblical principles. France adopted the advice of the secular philosophers, attempted to wipe out all Christian influence and saw their revolution spiral out of control into death and chaos.

The colleges in America, however, were influenced by these new philosophies. In fact, Lyman Beecher recalled the “ungodly state” of Yale and other schools. He said they were full of “intemperance, profanity, gambling and licentiousness.”

Rampant unbelief and a fascination with such opponents of the Bible as Voltaire, Paine and Rousseau, characterized the school. Timothy Dwight came to be the new president of Yale in 1795 and he preached the gospel and confronted the students with the message of Jesus Christ. A revival took place that spread to other New England schools and many students established missionary societies and went on to become missionaries or pastors.

What is next for our country as we come out of sheltering in place? Is their hope based on past experience? Will we see another move of the Lord? Many are saying we will never be the same — the “new normal” will be very different.

Will we reap the fruit of preaching a me-centered, self-improvement gospel that is not the gospel at all? In times past, we preached that sinners were wretched and that grace was amazing. We have been here before, we have created “Christian” cultures that edit scriptures, remove the gravity of His holy commandments, and numb peoples ears to real truth. The masks over our mouth shouldn’t prevent us from sharing the truth of the gospel.

We may not be seeing revivals in America but amazingly the church is growing in countries like Iran, China and throughout the Middle East. We need that awakening here and perhaps these times will make us realize our need to depend on Him. Do it again Lord!

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” — Psalm 85:6

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Bob’s religion columns appear Saturdays in The Press. Email Bob: bjshill@mac.com

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Shillingstad