One of my favorite movies is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In it Harrison Ford’s character is faced with difficult trials in order to regain the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus used at his last supper. One of the tests he has to endure is to make a seemingly impossible leap across a multi storied chasm. He recognizes that in this trial he is being challenged with a “leap of faith”.
Remember when Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk to him across the water. It was a call to voluntarily give up the security of the boat for the insecurity of walking on rough water (Matthew 14:22-31). With single-minded obedience, Peter takes the first step and, when his foot doesn’t sink into the water, his faith is affirmed.
When Indy, the character in the movie takes that step of faith, he is rewarded with firm footing underneath him that was clouded by the illusion of a fateful fall. Likewise, only by leaving the security of the boat does Peter discover that the greater security is in Jesus. In truth, the only security is in Jesus. Peter learns firsthand – or perhaps first-foot, that Jesus is his firm foundation under all circumstances. Peter also learns that what we see and think, apart from Jesus, is not a reflection of reality. The mythology we live by is that the greatest safety is in the boat; the reality is that the safest place to be is walking toward Jesus.
I believe that one of the main reason’s churches are plateaued and declining in America is because they have lost their theological footing.
In their 2016 paper, “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy,” researchers David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne show that along with other considerations, churches that teach the historic Christian gospel are growing – and those that do not, are not.
According to this study, “79% of growing congregants agreed strongly with the statement, ‘Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided a way for the forgiveness of my sins,’ whereas only 57% of declining congregants thought the same.”
Put more simply, if churches are to make a significant difference in the lives of people. then those people need the truth and hope offered in the good news that God became a man in the historic person Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a sinless life, performed matchless miracles, died an atoning death, and rose to new life on the third day. He now offers new and eternal life to all who decide to place their trust in Him for remission of their sins.
If Christianity is to regain it’s footing in American culture we must take steps toward preaching and teaching about the life changing message and mission of Jesus Christ.