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Churches trusted less than supermarkets

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A Tesco supermarket inside the former Westbourne Methodist Church in Westbourne (Credit: Joanne Casey via Bournemouth News and Picture Service)

Last Thursday was America’s annual “National Day of Prayer.” Hopefully we’re still praying for our country today.  Let’s pray that we don’t turn into Great Britain.

According to a new survey, only 17 percent of adults in the U.K. believe the church has “their best interests at heart.”  This “trust rating” ranks religious institutions with Google and behind supermarkets.  However, young people rank Google much higher than churches, giving the search engine a trust rating of 28 percent.

Is America headed in the same direction?

Just one in five Americans think “our moral compass is pointing in the right direction.”  Even fewer think the country’s morals have improved in the last four years.  The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans jumped 28 percent in the last decade; the increase was especially pronounced among white men and women, climbing 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.

Is it too late to reverse our nation’s moral and spiritual decline?  Not at all.

Our First Great Awakening is usually dated to 1734.  Prior to this remarkable spiritual movement, not one in 20 colonists claimed to be a Christian.  Samuel Blair, a pastor of the day, said that religion “lay as it were dying and ready to expire its last breath of life.”  Critics claimed that Christianity was an outdated, irrelevant European institution.  Voltaire’s skepticism spoke for many: “To pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature.”

But colonial Christians refused to back down from their Great Commission calling.  Theodore Frelinghuysen prayed for seven years until all the deacons in his church were true Christians, and continued to plead with God for a great spiritual movement in this new land.  David Brainerd prayed from tubercular lungs for the salvation of the American Indians.  Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian America has ever produced, worked fearlessly for the conversion of his community and society.  British evangelist George Whitefield braved the Atlantic Ocean 13 times to preach the gospel across the Colonies.

The result was the greatest spiritual movement America has ever known.  As many as 80 percent of the people made commitments to Christ and joined churches.  Many historians believe that this First Great Awakening did more to make possible a “United” States of America than any other single factor.

Is God calling for a new generation of courageous Christians in an immoral day?  John F. Kennedy: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.  It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”