From Nominal to None
Perhaps you too have been hearing a good deal about the “nones” recently. Al Mohler has discussed them several times on his podcast and the blogs and posts have not missed their opportunities to marvel at the growth of the nones. For those who have not been in the loop of this discussion a quick definition will help. None refers to those who now identify their religious affiliation as “none”. They are the individuals who when surveyed or when filling out forms answer the religion question with “none”. What has made the news is the great increase of such individuals; in fact, it is the fastest growing group among those who keep such records. There seems to be something of a revival of nothing.
To some this has been particularly destressing but I honestly see it as a whole lot of worry about very little. What seems to be happening is that individuals that in a previous generation would have wondered into church membership to warm a pew, proudly joining the ranks of the nominal (Christian in name only), are now keeping their Sundays free and not playing at religion.
I remember years ago having conversations with my pastor and mentor about church members that seem to have no noticeable interest in knowing the Bible, living holy lives, and ministering. Being newly converted, it seemed to me that conversion ought to include some type of real change. I remember this pastor catching me up on the reality of the church in the 70s and 80s, churches full of people who were members but had no passion for Christ. The fact that those with no interest in Christ have no interest in the Church should not surprise us or give us cause for despair.
In fact, as I think through the development, it more and more seems to be a good thing. Not that people are rejecting religion but that they are being more consistent. Not that this new allegiance to the status of none is in any way a virtue, it certainly is not. The shift is a product of selfishness. If church attendance was to the advantage of many of these non-Christians they would play the game as their fathers before them did. But for now, the nones have no social or cultural pressure to be in the church and so they boldly check the box beside the word none. What makes this a good think is that we are left with a church membership that is largely made up of converted people.
This change or shift in the location of some non-Christians may change where we do some of our evangelism but it does not change the nature or true membership of Christ’s Church. Nor does this change in any way hinder or alter our work and ministry. God is still sovereign and He is still in the process of saving through Word and Spirit. Our task may indeed be a bit easier with the nones since we do not have to go through the frustrating process of convincing someone that they are not converted just because they are church members.
God is sovereign. He saves all He desires to save. Our calling is to take the gospel to the nones as well as those others that are unsaved in our churches or other religions. Christ will grow His church while we put aside worrying about labels the unconverted give themselves. That some have decided to label themselves “none” makes no difference to the church. The health of the church is not determined by numbers but by faithfulness to God’s Word. It is, in fact, a good thing that those outside of Christ also designate themselves outside of the church as it makes for a purer and healthier church and provides the church with a call to prayer and evangelism.
Don’t allow the number games of some to distract you. Christ is working to save the elect and our calling is to be faithful. None is just a new label. The battle has not changed, our calling has not changed, and the nature of the church has not changed. Let us pray, speak to others of Christ, live faithfully, and look to the coming of our Lord when our pilgrimage will give way to our life with Christ in eternity.