Dropping Like Flies
Dropping Like Flies
Written By Mark Elfstrand, Cultural Affairs Writer   |   09.18.23
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Some phrase origins are hard to pinpoint such as “dropping like flies.”  A story in the May 1902 edition of the Atlanta Constitution might have said it first,

“I saw men and women rushing back and forth within the flames. They would run along, then came the choking smoke and they would drop like dead flies.”

This reference alluded to the short-lived life of an insect most of us despise.

As time progressed, the phrase referred to people or animals falling dead or ill in large numbers.

Regrettably, today I will apply it to the modern day American church.

The publication Christianity Today recently featured several articles written to describe “The Fall” — the shocking shrinkage in membership and participation in American churches. They observed that both The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal have written about this noticeable trend.

Church departures have impacted all the generations—Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and the Ys. Surprising to me is the number of Boomers giving up on church.

My long time friend Dr. John Armstrong from Carol Stream, Illinois, wrote a compelling piece in 2019 about these dropouts he referred to as “dones.”

A couple of John’s observations are worth noting. First,

“The prosperous baby boom generation inherited a Christianity that invited us into an easy commitment, a form of religion that feeds our latent narcissism.”

He adds,

“The result is that many of us find the Bible inadequate, God insufficient, and church impersonal.”

Many of these Boomers no longer see the church as deeply attractive and relevant. Dr. Armstrong states,

“The reality is that we have little hunger for intimacy with God given how busy we have been for decades and how empty we now feel.”

What else? We’ve allowed “left and right” divisions to keep us apart in a more politically-charged climate. Add this dire observation,

“We never learned the art of transformative prayer and deep meditation in the Scriptures and upon the Word of God; i.e., the person of Christ.”

Little wonder then, if Armstrong’s assessments are correct (and there were more), the lack of spiritual focus and commitment has rubbed off on ensuing generations.

And here we are. A collection of American Christians drifting away from “the greatest story ever told.”

And let’s not blame Covid for the shrinkage. A January 2023 study by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the University of Chicago revealed that the pandemic’s long-term effect on worship attendance was minimal.

With one exception: young adults. Their church attendance has suffered a major hit.

So a large question looms here. Is this modern day drift a problem with the church? Or with us? Is the preaching weaker today? Or are our hearts growing increasingly hardened?

In all likelihood, it’s both.

This article surfaced in the past month: 10 Things Your Husband Hates about Church. One of the ten listed was “Too Many Songs and Only Half a Sermon.” Complain about that to Jesus, will ya?

No, for all our efforts to figure this out — including being seeker-friendly to the max — most men would rather tailgate before a Bears game than attend church. Or play golf. Or work on their lawn.

Deep spiritual hunger is missing.

The apostle Paul might not be too kind in writing his letters to the church today. He would likely point out exceptions in places where people apparently love to worship God and be taught from the Scriptures.

Sadly in our day, we’re more likely to see church splits over the gay issue or female pastors fueling more dropouts.

Here is what the prophet Isaiah wrote to the people of his time:

“And so the Lord says,’These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.’” Isaiah 29:13-14 (NLT)

We have no trouble filling stadiums with meaningless sports activities. Or jamming theaters with people in pink to watch a woke message of Barbie.

But will our churches regain their proper form and health in the next generation with souls thrilled to learn more of the great God of the Universe?

Not if the current “faithful” keep dropping like flies.

Mark Elfstrand, Cultural Affairs Writer
Mark Elfstrand is a Christian husband, father and grandfather. A 40-year radio veteran, Mark has been a drive time air personality in Sacramento, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, including WMBI and WYLL. He has also served in various ministry leadership positions. His current endeavors can be found at elfstrandgroup.com....
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