A need-to-know basis

Jeremiah 31:31-34
It stopped being news years ago. The American church is in decline. Any quick look at the numbers will show you. Of course, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic not only exposed those trends, it contributed to them. It’s now new, but that doesn’t stop new reports.

Every so often, some article will highlight some new lower religious affiliation percentages.

Those numbers are altogether useful and unhelpful. Useful because they remind us that our mission remains. I recall seeing a cartoon strip many years ago. It depicted an American missionary and a tribal man standing in front of a hut. The tribal man thanked the missionary for bringing the Christian faith to his family. He then told the American man he couldn’t wait to go back to America to bring the Christian faith there.


This decline in Christian understanding and discipleship is nothing new. We’ve been joking about it for some time.

I used to struggle with that reality.

It especially made me question the new covenant God promised in Jeremiah 31. If you haven’t read that chapter, I’d make time soon to do so. It is a pivotal point in the life of God’s people. “The days are surely coming,” God said, when this new covenant would come. To be sure, this new covenant will be by God’s prompting. It’s always God’s doing.

But it’s still a promise God is making with us. We have a part in it. God said this new covenant would not be like the old one. God’s people were a part of that one and they broke it, even though it was as a marriage to God. What makes us think we can be any better? Sometimes we don’t even make it out the church doors on Sunday morning before we fall short.

Yet God seems optimistic. The Lord must know something we do not.

Whereas the people had the old covenant etched in stone, God will put the new one in our hearts. Will that make a difference? Apparently, it will be so much better that there won’t be a need to teach each other. All God’s people will “know the Lord” enough to not need instruction.

I don’t know about you, but I have quite a few days that do not measure up to that standard. Thanks be to God, the Lord forgives our iniquity. God says that’s a part of the new covenant. It’s in the contract!

The incarnation of Jesus ushered in the reality of God’s new covenant. But we still have not fully realized how that works. That’s why I also find those loss-of-religion numbers unhelpful. They don’t tell the story of how God is reshaping the church through this season of church decline. 

Still, all this means there’s still plenty of people who need to “know the Lord.” People who have left the faith need to know. People who have never heard of God’s kingdom need to need. And, yes, you and I need to know more of Jesus, too.
Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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