International (MNN) – Raise your hand if you think Christianity in the United States is dying. If you do, consider what Matt Morrison of e3 Partners has to say about local church trends.
In a recent article, Morrison exhibited five reasons why Christians in the United States should not despair as they look at the culture around them.
Telling the whole story
“To say that Christianity is dying in the United States is really only half the story. It’s shifting and it’s shifting in some really exciting ways in particular,” Morrison says.
The first trend of the last few decades that Morrison recognizes is the difference in number of Christians in the northern and southern hemispheres. He says in 1980, more people in the southern hemisphere identified as Christians than the north for the first time in over 1,000 years.
A second trend is there’s a heavier focus on planting small churches rather than growing existing churches. Morrison says to think rabbits as opposed to large “elephant” churches that we’re so used to in the United States.
These small “rabbit” churches reproduce quickly and often, and they allow for better one-on-one contact.
“There’s more discipleship taking place, there’s more evangelism taking place, and they’re able to geographically cover more of the area,” Morrison says.
This brings us to the third trend he points out: from institutions to movements. Smaller churches allow the Body to reach out to people who would never come to a traditional church building. One group in particular in the United States and Europe are refugees.
“They’re showing up at apartment complexes and in homes and community centers where they’re hearing the Gospel and where not only are they receiving Christ but they’re almost immediately taking the next steps and sharing the Gospel with their friends and families.”
The fourth trend that has been especially evident at e3 is the local church’s interest in global missions. Many churches come to e3 asking for help planning a short-term mission strategy.
“We get to partner with these pastors, help them adopt countries or adopt causes that are central to who they are as a church and really build the infrastructure around them so they can send their members overseas.”
Finally, Morrison says there is a shift from segregation to diversity in churches.
Why it’s a good thing
These church trends should cause us to take heart even as we live in a culture that strays further and further away from the morals we would consider biblical. God has always equipped his Church to be effective no matter what the cultural situation may be.
Morrison says, “God is doing some really exciting things and as our generation kind of begins to rise up, he’s doing things that [are] unique to us and that’s really exciting. So I would say to the average American Christian, don’t be discouraged or alarmed when you hear that Christianity is ‘dying’ here in America. It’s really not.”
The benefits of having smaller churches, for instance, allows for more flexibility. Aside from the financial benefits of not having a mortgage, small churches allow for more personal relationships between attendants, though it does require more individual work and dedication when evangelizing and discipling.
As mentioned, these churches are able to reach new demographics that traditional churches may have difficulty connecting with. Morrison gives the example of refugees.
“Some of them come from unreached people groups that were previously inaccessible to us. These changes that you see—particularly these people who are focused on more church planting movements—they’re able to reach these people and they’re able to do something that in generations no one’s really been able to do,” Morrison says.
Something else to be recognized is that the shifts in the global Church are helping authenticate the Gospel in the lives and hearts of believers. In the face of a culture with contrary beliefs, Christians have the opportunity to stand up as followers of Jesus. They get to see if Jesus is the ruler of their life, or if they are just going with the flow.
“You look at how long we’ve focused on trying to make our culture look Christian, and I don’t know that that’s actually produced more Christians,” Morrison says, “I think it’s just produced people who look like Christians who maybe talk like Christians.”
He continues, “One of the exciting things I think in all of this is it’s kind of taking away the facade.”
How e3 Partners is staying relevant
Since e3 started in 1987, their focus has been church planting. They desire to meet people’s physical needs while sharing Jesus with them.
“At the end of the day, we firmly believe that if you want to ensure lasting change in a community, you have to leave behind a church that is transforming that community and promoting the Gospel there,” Morrison says.
That’s why they’re so excited about the trend of church plants that are multiplying. These church plants are centers of discipleship and accountability as well as hubs to share the Gospel and continue the church planting movement.
By the end of 2025, e3 hopes to plant one million churches. They’re training national leaders and sending more North Americans on short-term missions.
God is doing great things in the United States and around the world—in small churches, big churches, old and new. Morrison says the most important thing is for churches and the Christians in them to make the main thing the main thing—to make sharing the Gospel the goal of your life and to live it out and demonstrate it.
“There’s really nothing more exciting than getting to share the Gospel with people—some of whom have never heard the name of Jesus.”