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Despite theological and moral scandals, the Church in America has a glorious future

Despite theological and moral scandals, the Church in America has a glorious future

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 1, 2018

The Church of Jesus Christ in all its myriad forms looks, on the surface, to be in very serious trouble.

A sexual abuse scandal dogs the Roman Catholic Church that is so serious it could set back that church for decades. The pope himself has been implicated in a cover-up of sexual abuse back in his home country of Argentina. Progressive forms of Protestant liberalism are emptying mainline denominations faster than flash floods. It is so serious, most will be out of business in a decade. The overwhelming evidence is that the more mainline churches compromise over biblical faith and morals, the more and faster they will fail. Millennials, Generations X and Y have been classified as Nones and have no interest in these denominations or the Christian Faith, we are told from repeated Pew and Barna reports.

A Catholic priest I watched on video opined that perhaps his church should die and be rebuilt by true believers meeting in their homes. Away with baptized pagans, Vatican banks and huge edifices with only a handful of worshippers.

The picture looks about as bleak as Edvard Muench's The Scream. In recent times, a few hard-core evangelicals have even become atheists with other evangelicals beginning to compromise on homosexual marriage. Add the fake Christianity of the prosperity preachers, mega-church pastors with morality issues, ugly fundamentalists of one stripe or another, the alliance of the gospel with both the political right and left and you wonder why this generation has no use for our faith. Who can blame them? God will hold us accountable for being seduced by the gods of this world. Idolatry is a major sin.

There is vague talk of spirituality by Generation Z and by Nones, devolving into something called moralistic therapeutic deism. It is seducing younger generations. Is it any wonder that we are seeing a rise in witchcraft, psychic readings and perverse pursuers of the dark internet and the rise of child pornography!

But does this tell the whole story? Not necessarily.

New denominations are springing up that defy statistics and are drawing in a new generation of believers.

The Vineyard Movement, rooted in the charismatic renewal and historic evangelicalism got its impetus from one John Wimber in 1996 as the association of Vineyard Churches. Today it has over 2,400 affiliated churches. Members describe themselves as the "radical middle" between evangelicals and Pentecostals.

A case in point. A now almost defunct Anglo-Catholic parish on Philadelphia's historic mainline is being used as a venue for a Vineyard church. You can repeat this across the country.

Then there is the Anglican Church in North America, (ACNA) with over 1000 churches and more than 120,000 adherents, one of the fastest growing churches in North America, birthed from the homosexual affirming heresies of the dying Episcopal Church. While the Anglican Church of Canada continues to shrivel and die, orthodox Anglicans in the Anglican Network in Canada grow and thrive.

The second half of the 20th century has witnessed the rise of Messianic Judaism, a movement that has finally found its niche in the religious world. Today, Messianic Judaism is rapidly growing in different parts of the world: Israel, North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Because of its history and the impact of such a movement in the light of biblical interpretation, it cannot be dismissed as an experiment to be tested or a fad to be tried out. Currently there are some 300 Messianic Jewish congregations in the United States, with the estimated number of Messianic Jews ranging from 30,000 to 600,000! Messianic Judaism is even gaining momentum in Israel!

Hillsong in Australia just announced that it was growing so fast, it was splitting from the Assemblies of God and becoming its own denomination.

One cannot overlook the Rick Warren phenomenon and the ministry of Saddleback Church. When asked, Warren replied and said this: "Saddleback quietly continues to grow. We now average over 30,000 each week at our 20 campuses on four continents. Some 28,212 of our members have served on mission overseas in 197 nations. Saddleback's P.E.A.C.E plan now operates in more nations that America's Peace Corps! Three weeks ago, I baptized our 50,000th adult new believer in Christ convert. Last month, The Purpose Driven Life passed 50 million sold in all formats. It is the second most translated book in history -- next to the Bible. It's in the Guinness book of records."

Small, but growing movements, include the North American Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church in America and smaller, growing breakaway evangelical groups abound across the nation, mostly evangelical, as old, tired liberal denominations truncate the gospel to fit the zeitgeist.

The Hartford Institute's database lists more than 1,300 megachurch Protestant and Evangelical churches in the United States, each with more than 2,000 members.

That is not chicken feed.

According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there exist roughly 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012. That is up from 500 in 1800 and 39,000 in 2008 and this number is expected to grow to 55,000 by 2025. Many of them are in North America. Currently, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimates that a new Christian denomination is formed every 10.5 hours, or 2.3 denominations a day.

The ministry of the late John Stott, whose global outreach from All Souls, Langham Place, London, was noticed by Billy Graham and the Lausanne conference was born. Today the Langham Trust is a global ministry of Bible teaching and preaching that is changing the face of churches in the Global South. The evangelical Lausanne movement reaches around the globe.

The Global South is exploding with evangelical vigor. There has been tremendous growth in the number of Christians in Africa - coupled by a relative decline in adherence to traditional African religions. Only nine million Christians were in Africa in 1900, but by the year 2000, there were an estimated 380 million Christians. Today the figure is well over 400 million and none of them are buying the rubbish of John Shelby Spong. While things don't look good in the West, China is growing at a phenomenal rate with an estimated 130 million Chinese evangelicals. The Catholic Church in China reports about 6 million believers.

So how do we look at all this? Is it a case of darkest before the dawn? Are we supposed to wring our hands and hope the Lord returns to whisk us away in some dispensational whirlwind, or should we be praying for a new reformation and let God (the Lord said he didn't know) decide when the end will come? Yes, it is dark, very, very dark and we cannot minimize, gloss over or run away from the hellish heresies, apostasies and sexual immoralities that now infect so many churches. As a journalist I am as tempted as anyone to the notion of 'fright flight' and to say 'to Hell with it all'. It is God's mess not mine. I didn't create it; I did my best to fix it and lost. Nobody cares anymore. Why bother? Why continue?

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome (prevail) against it. Christ is the rock, Peter's the confession.

We cannot give up, we dare not give up. God is doing a new thing. It might be in embryonic form but it is there for eyes to see and ears to hear.


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