Will Christianity Be a Relic of the Past?
If you go down to the Strip District in Pittsburgh, you’ll see a lot of notable businesses: Primanti Brothers, Wholey’s, and others. So many unique businesses, and then…there’s McDonald’s.
But one of the places that sticks out the most to me is a place called The Altar Bar. As its name suggests, The Altar Bar used to be a church building. Now, however, it’s a concert venue and bar. Other former church buildings in the city have undergone a similar transformation, such as The Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville.
This has come to symbolize in my mind what’s happened to Christianity in Pittsburgh over the past several decades. To put it mildly, things don’t seem to be going very well.
Many of the churches that once were thriving are now just a shell of what they once were. Others are either abandoned, converted into various businesses, or are functional museums. There’s even a church very close to my house that has a marker out front saying that it’s being preserved by the Pittsburgh Historical Society.
For those of us who are practicing Christians, it’s very natural to be concerned about that. And even on a broader scale, as we think about the increasingly secular nature of American society, I think many Christians have a growing sense of anxiety and uncertainty as we wonder, “What’s going to happen in the future? Will Christianity become a relic of the past? Or is it already, in fact, a relic of the past?”
Simply stated, the answer is “no.”
So many times, we have such a small view of God’s power. We might never say it, but we imagine that he’s looking down at everything going on in the world and at the decline of Christianity in America, and that he’s wringing his hands and wondering what he’s going to do and hoping that it’ll all turn out okay.
However, that’s not God at all—not the God of the Bible.
The God of the Bible is a God of infinite power. He was powerful enough to speak this world into existence, and he was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead. There’s nothing he can’t do, no person’s heart he can’t change, and no city to which he can’t bring revival.
I think of Wales in the early twentieth century and how God completely turned that city upside down…or maybe we should say right side up. It began with prayer as one pastor pleaded with God, “Lord, bend us.” A young man named Evan Roberts heard this and subsequently had a burden that God would bring revival to Wales.
In October of 1904, he led a series of daily prayer meetings in his church, one of which lasted until 3:15am. He also began speaking at other churches, and before the end of the month, over 600 people had been converted.
Eventually hundreds of meetings filled Wales with the sounds of prayer, exhortation, and confessing sins—all of this happening without the need for any central coordination or advertising. By June of the next year, an estimated 100,000 people had embraced Christ.
It’s interesting to read reports of how the numerous coal mines in Wales famously slowed down in their output because the horses wouldn’t move. You see, the horses were used to the miners kicking them and swearing at them. And when the miners didn’t do that anymore, the horses didn’t know what to do. It’s also recorded how judges actually closed their courtrooms because they had nothing to judge. And although space doesn’t permit the whole story, suffice it to say that this revival spread to many other regions of the world as well.
Revelation 7:9-10 paints a picture for us of how the gospel will eventually have infiltrated every corner of this world: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
That will happen in the future. In fact, it already is.
Christianity may be declining in America, but it’s spreading like wildfire in innumerable other countries of the world, especially the poorer countries.
Don’t let the empty church buildings around Pittsburgh fool you. God is on the move, and he’s truly unstoppable as he works to accomplish his mission.