by Tim Keller
It’s no surprise every poll and study shows the same thing: Over the past two decades, there has been a steady increase in the number of Americans who say they are atheists, agnostics, religiously unaffiliated, or believe “nothing in particular.” Each generation—from Gen X to Millennials to “Gen Z”—is significantly less religious and less churchgoing than the generation before.
This should mean Christians talk more to their neighbors, colleagues, and friends about the reasons they believe, but that isn’t happening. A recent study commissioned by Lutheran Hour Ministries found that since 1993 the number of Christians who said “I believe every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith,” and the number who said they’d speak to others about the benefits of becoming a Christian, has dropped precipitously (see Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, Barna Report, 2018). So at a moment when there is more need for evangelism—sharing the good news about Jesus—there is less willingness to do it.
Why We Aren’t Being Public
Why? There are many factors. First, talking about Christian faith is more complicated. A generation ago you could assume that the vast majority of people believed in a personal God, an afterlife, moral absolutes, the reality of their sin, and had a basic respect for the Bible. Christians routinely assumed the existence of these concepts (or “dots”), and evangelism was mainly connecting the dots to show them their personal need for Jesus. No longer can we assume, however, that any of these basic ideas are common knowledge or, if they are, even acceptable. To talk about faith now entails working to establish basic concepts before Jesus’s gift of salvation can have any meaning.