Wednesday, February 1, 2023


With raging suicides, overdoses, violent crime, the continued repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, dysfunctional political structures and a slew of other cultural crisis points, it should come as no surprise that many feel disjointed, disconnected and aloof.

It’s hard to know where to turn when everything seems so disheveled. And it becomes too easy in the mix to more fervently lament the state of affairs, pondering how we got here and why we’ve so flippantly driven society off the rails.

There’s no shortage of muck to sift through. But one of the most tragic hallmarks of the modern era — one I’ve consistently and somberly written on — is the rise of the “gospel of the self.” It’s a worldview predicated upon the mistaken cultural move away from God.

This notion that human beings are somehow capable of deciding the bounds of morality for themselves has, without a doubt, created — or at least further perpetuated — nearly every crisis we face. As the positive statistics surrounding Americans’ faithfulness continue to dwindle, our societal and structural problems only seem to worsen.

The numbers don’t lie. The Pew Research Center found 78% of Americans self-identified as Christian in 2007, with that proportion plummeting to about 64% in 2020. 

Sadly, over the next few decades, society is poised to slide even faster down this steep theological hill into an even greater abyss of ethical confusion.

“Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up, or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070,” Pew reported last year. 

This tragic reality is sure to further harm our culture, while systematically disconnecting individuals from the eternal. But while the proportions are certainly less than encouraging, a new study from the Barna Group offers a ray of light worthy of deeper exploration.

As it turns out, a newly released survey proves Americans trapped in the confusing bog of the modern era’s whims are thirsting for something bigger, for spiritual growth, and are seeking deeper meaning.

In fact, the majority of Americans told the Barna Group (74%) in October they want to grow spiritually, with nearly eight in 10 expressing belief in a higher power. Then there’s the most glaring and encouraging data point: 44% expressed a greater openness to God than before the pandemic. 

COVID-19, like nearly everything else unfolding today, sent a seemingly never-ending barrage of lightning rods throughout our political, social and cultural systems. The debates and chaos became the indigestible icing on a spoiled “cake” of fear, loss, joblessness and disruptions.

Most Americans had never experienced anything like COVID-19 and its resulting disorder, leading to more depression, suicidal inclinations, drug use and other social ills. 

But that hodgepodge of cultural shambles is apparently leaving some on a quest for something bigger than themselves — and that openness is a real opportunity for Christians looking to reach the world with eternal truth. 

But don’t just take my word for it. Barna explicitly noted the 44% stat should “give Christian leaders cause for hope” and explained that “spiritual openness and curiosity are on the rise” despite downward trends in church attendance and affiliation. 

It seems people are discovering that the god of the self can never quench the desires of the human spirit. It leaves people ravenously parched and persistently partaking in any and all whims that provide even momentary relief or happiness. 

Many are now waking up from this stupor and are open to the real antidote to their woes.

“The majority of Americans has signaled that they’re willing to consider exploring spirituality,” Barna reported. “They are open to more that truly satisfies.”

With this unprecedented opportunity after the pandemic, a pressing question remains for today’s faithful: Are you ready to meet this need? Jesus calls believers in Matthew 28:16-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations,” sharing the truth with them along the way.

Now that culture is increasingly desperate and seeking the truth, the harvest is getting riper. The only remaining curiosity: How will you respond to meet that demand?

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Hallowell is the author of four books, including “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.”

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