Sunday, April 17, 2016

Christianity Spreads

Up to this time, Christianity spread by common people "as you go" method.  Took gospel with them wherever they went.
Acts 13:1-3 - missionary movement begins - missionaries sent and supported.  Vocational missionaries, preachers, teachers - called by God. 
Therefore, as a result, Christianity spread much more rapidly.

I.  The Growth of Christianity
Roughly 70 years after Christ's crucifixion - AD 100 -  360:1 - non-Christians to every self-described Christian
                                                                 AD1000 - 220:1
                                                                 AD 1500    69:1
                                                                 AD 1900    27:1
                                                                 AD 2000      2:1

Has the growth slowed?  in decline?  According to a 2015 Washington Post Article:  Not true - although may be true here in America.

USA ----- survey of American adults regarding religious "SELF-IDENTITY.
                                                 1990                          2008
                 Christian                    86%                          76%
                Agnostic/Atheist         0.7%                         1.6%
                 None                        8.2%                          15%

(1)  there are far fewer atheists/agnostics that we're led to believe
(2) the 'nones' are the fastest growing category.
(3) the issue is NOT fewer believers, it is that it is more acceptable to say "I'm a none" these days.
(4)  the decline in church attendance is within main-line denominations which say "Christianity must abandon its historic beliefs to survive", and they die or are dying. 
In fact - the liberal churches are declining, while the conservative churches are growing both in the USA and around the world.  (AS Churches abandon Biblical views, they decline).

II.  The Influence of Christianity - practical change - example:  Book entitled "Under the Influence".  Christian influence on society as a whole is mind-boggling.

III.  Reasons for Growth and Influence
are many - some beyond knowing (assume the work of the Holy Spirit, BUT the Christians had large part in this.  Holy Spirit worked with them and through them!

Christians believed they were:
(1)  Compelled
           transformed => therefore motivated, driven, from within
Rom. 1:14-15, 1 Cor. 9:16 

(2)  Commanded  - Matt. 28:18-20   Sometimes compulsion dies but the command doesn't!

(3)  Commissioned     ie:  a command, charge BACKED by authority!!  "go....I'll go with you"

On one hand, God is capable of convicting, converting people without us.
However, He has chosen to include us, to use us, to work with and through us, and to back us!!!  Example: "I got your back".

IV.  The Future of Christianity?
All agree on His return at the End.  BUT, between now and then?  what to expect?

Are bookend views:
#1.  Pre-millennial view:  "it's gonna get worse and worse!"   Backed up by:
           A)  Scripture:  1 Tim. 4:1  Rev. 13:7-10
           B)  Experience:  WWI --> WWII --> today??

#2.  Post-Millennial view:  "it's gonna get better and better!"  Backed up by:
          A)  Scripture:  Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45       Matt. 13:31-32
          B)  Experience - Example:  "Under the Influence" - America's 1st. 200 years.

Conclusion?:  Don't know, but probably some of both.

V.  Our Current (contemporary) Responsibility:   Remain Faithful
Faithful to:  (1) Proclaim - the gospel whether it's popular or unpopular, accepted or unaccepted, whether we're criticized or not criticized, etc.
                  (2)  Promote - the gospel
                  (3)  Practice - the gospel - this is not just religious ideology - it is a lifestyle!!!!  Live it!!!
1 Cor. 15:58 - "not in vain" ==> will make a difference - an eternal difference.

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