Let the numbers drop.
The Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t believe in the Church but in Jesus Christ. Neither does the Church believe in this or that side of a very horizontal partisan pole but in the coming Kingdom of our Lord. Christ has never relied on his Church maintaining a moral majority or tax-exempt status to flourish. The blood of the martyrs only makes the blood of Christ more palpable.
Don’t let some trendy new “theologian” (re: sociologist) sell you their book with all its diagnostics and projections and “solutions” for the problem that is ‘the Church’. The Church is constituted by none other than the living God in his sovereign freedom. He can raise up children of Abraham out of stones, probably even out of “liberals” and “evangelicals” as well.
Besides, there is nothing easier for the individual human heart to hide behind than a crowd of people who know why everybody else is wrong. Beware of deriving your identity from whatever Christian subculture to which you belong. God judges by “the thoughts and intentions of our hearts” (Heb. 4:12), not the thoughts and intentions of our t-shirts. And his judgment is clear. There is one thing wrong in this world: every human heart. Nobody wants to buy that t-shirt, but it is the only one that bears witness to a Crucified Lord.
We do not need more strategies or organization, we don’t need more Christians being the “hands and feet of Jesus,” we don’t need more efforts in discipleship or missions or relevance or, for Christ’s sake, politics. We need One thing. We need the living Christ! And if there is any contingency to speak of, it is not the living Christ but our participation in his life. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but they may very well prevail against the place I “go to church” every Sunday or my denomination, or yours. In that case, we need only one other thing: we need repentance. Only repentance can “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Mt. 3:8).
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
No amount of effective strategizing can replace that. Nor can any amount of effective strategizing make the Lord not despise a self-important spirit and self-righteous heart. There is the humble Christian who prays in the light of the cross, and there is false religion. There is nothing else.
When God has a people with a passion for his Name, a people who “will the one thing,” all the other stuff–organization, mission, discipleship, whatever–will come, but it will come as a matter of means, not a matter of principle, a way to respond to the living Lord of the Church, not a way to preserve a dying relic of Christians. If Christians are indeed a dying relic, we need only remember that the Church was born in a tomb, and then to humbly return to our place of origin, and stay there, that Christ may be born again in us. That alone will save us from the temptation to live for the glory of any other name.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls in the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn. 12:24).
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
– Corrie Ten Boom
“What we choose to fight is so tiny! What fights with us is so great. If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm, we would become strong too, and not need names.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke