There's a new poll here that reveals a recent decline in Americans who believe in the existence of God, down 8% in recent years. Given the decreasing contemporary witness of the church in America and the corresponding rise of a secular, hostile culture, it's reasonable to ask if the American church has reached its zenith and is now in decline to an ultimate position of irrelevance.
This raises an interesting theological question with respect to the durability of the church.
Jesus was adamant that the powers of darkness would not prevail against His Church (i.e., Matt 16:17-19) which some have erroneously interpreted as referring to the Church - whether local, regional,or global - that it will always prevail and triumph. But history clearly shows otherwise. Earlier, I recorded here my observation several years ago in Turkey which was the center of power for the global church in the late 1st century church A.D. (Asia Minor) ... that the church there had all but disappeared. Several other instances can easily be cited from global history of a local regional church, once powerfully witnessing to the truth of the gospel, suffering decline and even disappearing altogether.
Does this mean Jesus was wrong? Of course not.
In context, it's clear that Jesus was referring to the universal church, not a local or regional expression of it. A good analogy is an under-inflated balloon. If you squeeze one part of the balloon, it always expands elsewhere. This is true of the universal church. As the enemy attacks and (sometimes successfully) manages to squelch the church's witness on one part of the globe, the result is the rapid expansion and influence of the church elsewhere on the planet at the same time. As the church waned in Asia Minor, it breathed new life into Europe. As it waxed in Europe, it flashed to life in North America. As it declines in North America, it bursts forth in South America, China and the Orient. Globally, the church is unquenchable.
But it is a mistake to believe that a local or regional church cannot and will not suffer judgment. Jesus warns the church in Ephesus they are in danger of having their lamp extinguished (Rev 2:5) if they do not repent. In Rev 3:1-6, Christ warns the church in Sardis that unless they repent, what little remains of that church will die.
We need to pay close heed to Christ's messages to the churches in Rev chapters 2-3. We're foolish if we naively think our local or regional expression of the church is untouchable because it represents divine light, albeit imperfectly. That was the catastrophic mistake national Israel made in the Old Testament - believing they were exempt from God's judgment because they were, after all, more "righteous" than the surrounding nations.
History provides a sobering warning to the contemporary church in North America which is in danger of having its' lampstand soon removed.