Perhaps one of the most troubling questions in Christianity today deals with the idea of increase*. If Christianity is the truth, why is it increasing so slowly? According to the American Religious Identity Survey (ARIS) conducted in 2001, with a sample size of 50,000 Americans, Christianity increased 5% from 1990-2000. Compare that to Islam which grew 109%, Buddhism 170%, and scientology which grew by 22%. How can these statistics be true?
It is a far too common tragedy in our world for people to allow their desires and convenience to pollute the truth in front of them. This fact is especially true when dealing with religion. For example, horoscopes and palm reading may go completely against biblical teaching, but they are fun! Hinduism might refer to the son of God as merely a prophet, but it is rich in philosophy!
Christians often wonder why Christianity is increasing so slowly, and the answer is simple: to be a Christian, one must die to themselves. In Galatians 2:20 Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” As Christians we are supposed to die to ourselves which means that Christ’s will for me will always trumps my own will. Anytime truth requires this type of commitment, there will be resistance.
So what can we do to encourage our fellow Christians, and help those not in Christ’s body? First we must teach them what is expected from Christianity. We must prepare them to die to themselves; however, there is so much more we must do. Notice the remainder of Galatians 2:20. “Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Notice how Paul first says that we must die to ourselves, but he immediately switches focus to life. An atheist speaking at a seminar once said, “If there is a God, may he prove himself by striking me dead right now.” Nothing happened. “You see, there is not God.” At this statement a member of the audience responded, “You’ve only proved that He is a gracious God.” If we die to ourselves through baptism(Romans 6:3-5) and the way we conduct ourselves(Ephesians 4:22-24), we can live in Christ which means we can obtain his grace! Indeed God is gracious, and it is only until we realize the benefits of life in his Son that Christianity will increase.
*The word increase is purposely used since the word normally translated growth in the New Testament has no reference to numerical growth, but rather spiritual maturity.