We have a tendency to think that America has always been relatively Christian since its very founding and that only in recent decades has the church been troubled by widespread unfaithfulness and lessened participation, but that simply isn’t true. And it’s not just our day that has seen a drop in Church attendance. Writing of the Civil War, Dan Reid observes
The war cost billions of dollars and more casualties than any other in U.S. history, ruined and impoverished many Southern states and left a lasting legacy of sectional and racial hatred. Despite a significant revival in the Confederate army during the war, Christianity in general did not fare well in the conflict. Besides killing and wounding tens of thousands of faithful church members, four years of carnage blunted the American moral and religious conscience. Both during and immediately after the war, church membership and attendance declined.*
America has seen Christianity ebb and flow. Rise and fall. Grow and waver. Throughout its history, and it will continue to do so. The present wavering and faltering of faithful Christians faithfully taking part in the life of the Church and thus the core of their faith will one day be halted and faithfulness will again return. The only question is, will we be part of it, or will we depart before it happens? The choice is ours because the choice to be faithful (or not) is always ours.
However, no matter what we decide, the Church will carry on, even if only a tiny fraction of its present numbers, because the Church belongs to Christ and he has no intention of letting it disappear. Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, so modern indifference and Christian apathy can’t destroy it either.
*Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).