I was reading an article entitled “Are American Friendships Superficial” recently. The article was about a woman from Germany who came to the United States. It described her likes and dislikes about the U.S. in comparison to Germany. For example, she expressed pure delight in the opportunities for work and advancement in America.
She complained, however, that American friendships are superficial. She said, “I do not see any deep friendships and people form and dissolve relationships too easily.”
The writer of the article, Jefferson M. Fish, stated, “American individualism means that we give more emphasis to our own needs in forming and dissolving relationships than do cultures organized around traditional forms and relationships.”
As I read the article in Psychology Today I began to wonder if the idea of superficial friendships carry over into the spiritual realm. Is our relationship to Christ superficial? Is that why so many church members are so sporadic in their church attendance, giving, Bible study, and prayer? Is it possible for us to form and dissolve our relationship to a certain church too easily? Is the average American deeply committed to anything?
Do we embrace the church only when it is convenient, only when it meets our felt needs, only when it doesn’t intrude too much into our personal lives, only when it makes us feel good? Would we continue to be true to our faith when it really began to cost us something?
Kelly Shattuck, writing for ChurchLeaders.com, published data on the worship attendance in the U.S. in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) and revealed that only 17.7 percent of the population (52 million people) attend church on any given Sunday.
This may shock you, but according to multiple sources there are more Christians worshipping the living God on Sunday in China than there are Christians worshipping the living God in the United States. There are not quite as many professing Christians in China as the United States, but a much higher percentage of Chinese Christians attend church services on a weekly basis even though millions of them must attend underground churches. According to BBC News, up to 100 million Chinese worship the Lord on Sundays.
Interestingly, The London Telegraph reported on July 4 that China is on course to become the world’s most Christian nation by 2030. The Telegraph also reported, “Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheistic country, but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.”
Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, exclaimed, “By my calculations, China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon.”
Yang believes that the number of Christians in China will swell to around 160 million by 2025. He explained, “That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million protestants in 2010, but whose congregations are in decline.
“By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil, and the United States as the largest Christian nation in the world.”
Pastor Samuel Lamb, one of the great men of China’s underground house church movement, commented, “Persecution [is] good for [the] church.” He knows from his firsthand experience. During his more than 20 years in Communist Chinese prisons, his church grew exponentially.
Richard Wurmbrand, in his book Tortured for Christ, stated, “Persecution has always produced a better Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet.”
It must be that the reason for the growth of the Chinese church and the decline of the American church is that there are no nominal, halfhearted, casual, lukewarm Christians in China.