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The Church Is Declining—And Only One Thing Can Turn This Trend Around

church is declining

Is the church declining? Ray Flynn says yes.

As president of Abraham Productions, Flynn regularly communicates with numerous churches around the U.S. Throughout the years, he’s noticed a disturbing trend as church attendance seems to continue to dip.

He’s not the only one noticing. Ark Encounter founder Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, from America’s Research Group, has written books (Already Gone and Ready to Return?) on this decline that are based on actual conversations of those who have walked away. The results are of this secularizing trend are shocking.

Furthermore, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, church membership in the U.S. has declined sharply in the last 20 years as more Americans claim no religious preference (which is technically the religion of secular humanism that has been freely taught for decades in most state schools—consider Proverbs 22:6). And in 2019, Pew Research found that only 65% of American adults identify as Christian, a 12% decrease since 2009.

“It could give me concern, but at the same time, it makes me excited, because that just means that the return of Christ is that much closer,” Flynn says. Also, never forget that Christ is still reigning from His throne with all authority (e.g., Matthew 28:18, 1 Corinthians 15:25, Hebrews 1:8).

Certainly not all churches are declining, he points out. Some are still vibrant and experiencing growth. But overall, the church—especially in the West—conveys a sense of hopelessness in the face of Western culture’s deepening depravity.

“When you look at most churches as a whole, you see a church that gives the impression that they are depressed, and they can't understand what's going on in our culture,” he says. “And they're looking for something to encourage them.”

What’s the answer to this hopelessness? Could it be a revival that turns the church—and the entire nation—back to the Lord?

Getting Back to God’s Word

If the church wants to see that kind of revival, Flynn says, the first step is getting back to the Word of God. One of the biggest obstacles to spending time in the Bible is busyness. Sadly, too many people say they don’t have time for what should be one of their biggest priorities.

“Without having that illumination and instruction on a daily basis, how do you know what to do? How do you know how to confront the things that our culture is throwing at us and the news is throwing at us every single day?” Flynn says. “So more than anything, I would encourage people to take the time to get alone with the Lord every day, take time to study His Word, and then take time to just let Him speak to you—because the Word is still alive, and it will speak to us.”

While many people rely on devotionals and spiritual self-help books, Flynn says these are no substitute for God’s Word.

“There’s insight we can get from books and devotionals, but the Word of God cuts us and changes us and shows us things,” he points out. “A man’s or woman's opinion on some topic can be great, but it's not the final authority. God's Word is always the final authority.”

No self-help book can transform people’s lives like the Bible can. Flynn says he experienced this firsthand as an unbeliever when he heard the Word at a revival meeting years ago. The Holy Spirit used the Scriptures to convict his heart (John 16:8), and when he gave his life to Christ, he felt like someone had cleaned him from the inside out.

Trusting God’s Word When Life Is Hard

Since that life-changing day, God’s Word has continued to transform Flynn. At the start of almost every year, he chooses a new Scripture to meditate on as that year’s theme. Several years ago, that Scripture was Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (ESV).

Flynn’s trust in God’s Word was put to the test shortly afterward when he was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few weeks later, he found out his great-aunt had passed away, and several weeks after that, his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I felt like the whole world was on my shoulders,” Flynn says. “And yet I was saying, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. I can’t trust You in my own understanding. I’m going to have to just trust You, Lord.’”

That Scripture carried Flynn through one of the darkest moments of his life. And now, he has been cancer-free for several years and gives all credit to God.

The more people experience the power of God’s Word like this, Flynn says, the closer we get to reversing the trend of decline in the church. That’s why he and his team at Abraham Productions is partnering with Answers in Genesis to host the largest Christian music festival in the world.

40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music will feature Southern Gospel singers and renowned preachers from August 2 through September 10. Flynn is expecting thousands of people to show up at the event, and he’s praying that each person leaves transformed by God and His Word.

Make sure to save your seat to see your favorite artists perform! Purchase your tickets at 40daysofgospelmusic.com.