By براين تشيلتن| 2017 was a challenging year in many respects for American Christians. But, what are the most pressing issues that Christians will encounter in 2018? Here is my top-ten list that will discuss that very issue. In contrast to previous lists that I have presented, this list will only focus on American Christianity, particularly the theological issues that apologists and pastors will face in the year ahead.
This comes from my observations from various social media discussion groups on Facebook, Twitter, and from various magazines, books, and television.
10. Relaxed Morality
I have noticed that many Christians have relaxed their views on such issues as abortion and marriage. Perhaps this is due in part to the pressures placed upon them from society at large. Shockingly, a growing number of Christians are accepting polygamous, polyamorous, and open relationships. The apologist and pastor will need to maintain their commitment to biblical ethics in these areas. They should expect a mounting resistance to ethical teachings, especially on the more hot-button issues.
9. Racial Reconciliation
2017 saw a lot of tension in racial matters, especially with the division over Confederate monuments. Pastors and apologists alike will need to emphasize the global and multi-ethnic nature of the gospel message.
8. Decline in Attendance
Many churches will face tough decisions in the year ahead. I read somewhere where around 4,000 churches close each year (Lifeway Bookstore president Thom Rainer has suggested that the number may be as high as 10,000) where only 1,000 are starting up. Denominations will need to push to create more church plants. Struggling churches will need to make efforts to change their strategy or face the very real possibility of closing their doors.
7. Relative Truth Claims
For those who have followed my blog, you know I have mentioned this multiple times. Yet, it bears repeating that many Americans have bought into the ideology that truth is relative. It’s the ‘ol “What’s true for you may not be true for me” routine. But, is that true for everyone? This only shows the growing need for more trained apologists and more apologetic pastors.
A growing number of American Christians are becoming apathetic in their viewpoint of evangelism, discipleship, biblical doctrine, and spiritual disciplines. If American Christians are going to reach their communities, they are going to need to take these issues seriously. Thom Rainer recently said that the modern pastor needs to be a continuous learner if he is going to be effective. I concur.
5. Political Demagoguery
Political disunity has wreaked havoc on America. The 2016 Presidential Election was one of the most divisive elections in American history. The pastor and apologist need to make an effort to speak less about their political affiliations and more about the salvific work of Christ. You aren’t going to change a lost person’s ethics until you change their doctrine. You won’t change their doctrine until the Lord changes their hearts. Our national problem is a sin problem. Period.
4. Growing Importance of Apologetic Evangelism/Reaching the “Nones.”
Few American Christians share the gospel. For those who have become the “nones” (those who have no religious affiliation), it will take a Holy Spirit-driven apologist to discover why that person left the faith. American Christianity must place a higher value on evangelism and home missions in 2018.
3. Biblical Illiteracy/Anti-intellectualism
Fewer American Christians are placing an emphasis on learning what the Bible says. In many circles, a person’s opinions are given higher value than biblical doctrine. Some say that learning the Bible is useless. American Christians will need to have their appetites for Scripture whetted.
The only way to change the mounting American biblical illiteracy is to train not just pastors and church leaders, but to train all Christians the fundamentals of Scripture. That is exactly what we set out to do at Bellator Christi.com.
2. Need for Another Spiritual Awakening
This point nearly made the number one challenge. In fact, I’m still not so sure that it shouldn’t be ranked number one. America is in dire need of another Great Awakening as was found in the days of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Christians need to pray that the Spirit would take hold and awaken America to the importance of Christ and of his word.
1. Decline of Biblical Authority
Jason Kline and I have had some deep discussions about this issue. I have also spoken with Phil Fernandes about this issue on The Bellator Christi Podcast. A growing number of Christians are placing a low value on biblical authority. By biblical authority, I am especially noting the importance of accepting all of Scripture as true.
Some have claimed that the teachings of Jesus in John’s Gospel are not really Jesus’s own words, but rather John’s invention. Others have claimed that certain narratives are untrue and are merely allegorical. At Nabeel Qureshi’s funeral, Dr. Jim Tour, a mentor to Nabeel, told the story about when he shared with Nabeel the importance of accepting all of the Bible as true. Dr. Tour’s advice applies to us, as well.
We are not going to be taken seriously if we are not taking the Bible seriously. As Frank Turek has said, “If Genesis 1:1 is true, then every other part of the Bible could be true.” If God can create everything out of nothing, then it is no problem for him to resurrect Jesus on the third day, or as many accompanying Jesus’s resurrection as he desires.