Spiritual development in our churches can be gauged by the extent to which their members have become genuine Christians. But as this article will show, most Christians or members of these churches are just nominal Christians.
According to current statistics there are more or less 2 billion Christians in the world. That is one third of the world's population. These belong to different churches, denominations or religious groups. If all of these were genuine Christians we would not be in a mess of so much poverty, crimes, violence and environmental degradation.
The problem is that most of these so-called Christians are only nominal, not genuine. They have not even begun so much as an inch in their spiritual development.
They are nominal because they are Christians in name only. A majority of them are called Christians because they were christened or baptized. Others consider themselves Christians because they were born of Christian parents and/or were dedicated by their parents in the church. Still others think that they are Christians because besides having been baptized they go to a Christian church for worship and have prayed the prayer to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
They are also nominal Christians because their leaders may not have realized that they themselves are also nominal Christians. Thinking that they are real Christians, they think that their followers are also real Christians.
There have been many attempts to make these nominal Christians into genuine Christians but the effectiveness of these attempts have been very minimal.
Why? Why are the results minimal?
I give three reasons for this state of affairs. There may be more.
Reason 1 is that most Christians are satisfied with nominal Christianity. This kind of Christianity is enough for their classification in the census of their government, in their day to day lives, in getting their marriage license and contract, in enrolling their children in school, in applying for a job, in dying and getting burial services in the church. Since they are already satisfied with this kind of Christianity, they do not see the need of improving upon it or of making it genuine.
Reason 2 is that the Christian leaders who realize that most Christians are only nominal do not fully know how genuine Christians are formed and how different they are from nominal Christians. They just keep on hoping that by their homilies or preaching, by Sunday schools or catechism classes or seminars before the administration of the sacraments or by their theology or religious studies subjects in school (now called mostly values education), by small group Bible studies or in their various church related organizations, their followers will become genuine Christians. They think that nominal Christianity and genuine Christianity exist in a continuum, from the most nominal Christianity to the most genuine Christianity with intermediary grades or levels between these extremes of the continuum.
These leaders do not realize that the difference between nominal and genuine Christianity is not one of degree but of kind. The one is not real, it is zero. The other is real, it has a positive content, at least 1, so to speak.
Reason 3 is that most who desire to lead others to genuine Christianity do not know how this is effectively done, in a way that there are substantial and lasting results. Look at this example.
A crusade is organized in a nominally Christian locality. The leaders and followers of different cooperating churches and denominations work out the whole crusade, from the scheduling, the choice of and invitation to an evangelist, the preparation for the venue, etc., up to the publicity of the crusade and daily prayers for the success of the crusade.
The crusade is done on schedule. Hundreds profess to receive Christ as Lord and Savior and are channeled to local churches for baptism and discipleship training. The newly professed now populate the local churches and they remain there or go back to their former churches or just drop from both.
For a while the locality experiences a positive change. Fewer people get drunk at night, more attendance in churches is observed, fewer acts of criminality occur. After several months or a year or two conditions become "normal" again: increasing number of crimes and stable or declining numbers in church attendance.
Genuine Christianity has not really invaded that locality. There was only a facelift of nominal Christianity. Sure, some lives here and there are drastically changed. A former gambler now becomes a student of the Bible and he will become a preacher soon. A prostitute now stops her trade and becomes a choir member. But the impact on the society as a whole is minimal.
Jesus came to give us genuine Christianity, not nominal Christianity.
When we have a constantly increasing number of spiritually developed Christians, we will have genuine Christianity. Spiritual development is our need as Christians.