the shape of leadership

Salt of the Earth

Representing Jesus in a skeptical world

The American Church has a credibility problem. Just 36 percent of U.S. adults have a high degree of confidence in organized religion, according to a recent Gallup poll. In 45 years of polling on the question, that’s a record low — and a far cry from the 78 percent who expressed a lot of trust in religion in 1975.

This trend parallels the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. Not surprisingly, only 8 percent of “nones” report having confidence in organized religion. Yet even among those identifying as Christian, minority shares of Protestants (48 percent) have confidence in the Church.

The degree of trust in religious leaders decreases with each generation, Pew Research Center recently reported. Seventy-one percent of U.S. adults aged 50 and older have confidence in pastors and other religious leaders, compared to 56 percent of those 30 to 49 years of age, and 50 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.

The degree of trust in religious leaders decreases with each generation.

Gallup cited several possible reasons for declining trust in the Church, including sexual abuse scandals, the association of many evangelicals with partisan politics, and the departure of millennials from church and family traditions.

Whatever the contributing factors, it’s a troubling trend. In a world that desperately needs the hope of Jesus, we have a calling to point to Him with our lives. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, what good is it (Matthew 5:13)?

Every day across America, faithful congregations, church leaders and laypeople are advancing the cause of Christ. Their labor is making a difference in their communities — and in eternity.

Yet there is much more to do. And how we approach this Kingdom work matters. Authenticity matters. Spirit reliance matters. Obedience matters. Saltiness matters.

Lives are hanging in the balance. The Church cannot fail to be the salt and light people everywhere need to encounter.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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