Let's be honest. We in the Christian world are inundated with bad news. We are bombarded with news about how the Millennial Generation is far more unbelieving than Generation X. In full disclosure, I was born at the end of what would make me a Gen-Xer. Nevertheless, pastors especially are concerned with lower numbers of people in their pews, statistics that show that giving is much lower than in times past, and denominational numbers that are dismal. I am identified as a Southern Baptist. I have heard reports that the SBC baptismal rates are the lowest they have been for quite some time.
Hearing these numbers cause great concern. As one who loves peace and security, I find myself asking some questions that are noble, like — "Will the next generation know about Christ? Will there be an evangelical presence in future generation?" and some questions that are admittedly more selfish, like — "Do I have job security as a pastor? Will I have enough time in ministry to retire? What will I do if I lose my position?" Be honest. If you are in ministry, you have probably asked similar questions.
However, I have had a statement that the apostle Paul gave the Romans on my mind a lot here lately. Paul wrote, perhaps his magnum opus, to the church in Rome. Roman Christians were facing uncertain days as they were often met with persecution. In AD 49, Emperor Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. The Christian Jews were met with strife over their trust in Christ by fellow Jews. For the Christians left in Rome, they were Gentiles who were bombarded by various other competing worldviews. In the midst of this turmoil, Paul encourages them by saying, "Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). How can these words apply to our situation? First, let's look at the reactions that people often have when met with opposition.
1. Reactions to Negative Statistics.
As an observer of people, I have noticed three negative reactions and one positive to the problems facing the church. We'll call the three negative reactions the denying mule, the withdrawn ostrich, and the whipped pup, while the positive reaction is noted as the conquering lion.
The Denying Mule. A mule can be a stubborn animal. If it is content to not do something, it is difficult, if not downright impossible, to get the animal to that thing. In like manner, some Christians will hear the negative statistics that are given and will deny that things are as bad as the statistics portray. Why? It is because the person is content to keep things as they are and is unwilling to change ministerial practices regardless of what may come. This is an unhealthy practice.