I go to a mega church here in Austin. I enjoy the fellowship and the sermons. But one of the things I do each Sunday is to sit in the foyer, drink a tea, and just look at people coming there before the service. I often think that it’s like being in a large flock of Whooping Cranes.
Whooping Cranes are a bird species that very nearly became extinct, back in the 1940’s. The number of Whooping Cranes in the whole world got down to 23. Only 23. That group would spend winters on the Texas coast, not far from here. Now maybe there are 600 in the whole world, a little better
Why in the world would I relate going to a mega church to being in a flock of Whooping Cranes?! Here in Texas, Christianity is pretty much doing ok. At least there are a good many professing, born again, Bible-believing Christians. But if you travel around, you’ll know that the “flock is dwindling” worldwide. It’s even true in the US. If you’re an unashamed, professing Christian who believes in sharing your faith with others and you live in New England, you may feel you’re in a distinct minority. Maybe 40 or 80 years ago this wasn’t nearly as true as it is now.
But if you really want to see a loss of the species Christianos Fidelis Disciplos (I made that up), then go to Europe. And this is no pro-American, anti-European rant here. Far from it. I spent 27 years of my adult life in Europe, east and west, north and south. Europe has a huge and special place in my heart. But I know from firsthand experience, if you’re an unashamed Christian in Europe nowadays, especially Northern or Western Europe, you’d really better be ready to face ostracism and disdain from a lot of people. As far as I know, there just isn’t really very much left of a healthy Protestant Christianity in much of Europe. It’s by in large an extinct species.
Correct me if I’m wrong here since that’s a pretty broad statement. I’m sure there are individuals full of faith and power and perhaps even “pockets of resistance”, little groups of believers who still meet together and try to hold on. One thing that’s been successful has been native African preachers coming from Africa as missionaries to evangelize Europeans. Some of the few Protestant churches in Europe which are having success are led by missionaries from Africa. But it’s just rare to find any sizable flock of Christians in Europe who are really solid in their faith, especially those containing folks of the younger generations.
So I sit in my church with my tea here in Austin and just look at the members as they head off with their kids to Sunday school or file in for the service. I enjoy being around the atmosphere of faith. And I look at people and I often wonder, “Will these folks still keep the faith when it’s not cool to be a Christian? What if conditions change and Christianity becomes besmirched and out of vogue, as has happened in so many places over the last few generations?” It’s rather like what Jesus said to His disciples, “Will you also go away?” (John 6:67)
I can more or less speak Danish and I think I’ve been in every city or town in Denmark of any size. But one of the more moving and foreboding TV series I ever saw was many years ago called “The Fishers”. It was a chilling, eye opening saga of the virtually extinction of Danish Christianity around 100 years ago or more, as seen through a changing of generations among Danish fishing families. It showed the simple sincerity but also inflexiblity of the older generations and the legitimate aspirations of the younger generations just to be allowed to listen to the radio or for the younger women to be allowed to cut their long hair. In a generation Christianity had a drastic drop off in Denmark and it never really came back to any extent.
Denmark today is mostly a nation of contented people with a social system that’s the envy of many nations. But between 1900 and 1950 it had a steep falling away from Christianity or faith in God, becoming a model for humanism and “just being nice”. And they are; they are very nice people. But for the most part, they’re often strongly anti-faith and anti-spiritual. I have many Danish friends and I respect their society for how it is. But my species —faith-filled, Spirit-filled Christianity—is by in large extinct there. And this is true of many if not most other northern and western European countries.
Will that happen here in Texas? The Bible says that before the second coming of Jesus, there “will come a falling away first”. (II Thessalonians 2:3) For those who’ve traveled Europe or even many parts of the US, they know that’s already happened. For now, I enjoy my Sundays with my Whooping Crane friends. I hope they’ll survive and thrive. I’m trying to do my part to help. But like Jesus said, “When the son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)