This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
For more than 200 years, believers referred to America as a “Christian nation.” But if researchers from the Pew Research Center are correct, their numbers indicate this may no longer be the case in about 48 years. (See Modeling the Future of Religion in America for more details.)
Here are a few of their grim data points:
+ US Nones — those without any religious affiliation will exceed Christians by the year 2070.
+ Only 63 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian this year, a marked drop from 75 percent only 10 years ago.
+ The number of Americans who say religion is “very important” in their lives is also falling: 41 percent of Americans consider religion “very important” in their lives, down from 56 percent in 2007.
+ The percentage of Americans identifying as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other non-Christian faiths could double.
+ Currently, about a third (31 percent) of Christians become disaffiliated before they turn 30.
Conrad Hackett, Associate Director of Research and senior demographer at Pew Research Center, said that the projections for the country do not show the end of Christianity or of religion in general, which he expects to remain robust. And most “Nones”, while claiming no religion, do not identify as atheists either. Instead, the United States appears to be going through a pattern of secularization that has happened in other countries, though Hackett says “America may be a bit behind.”
While the researchers stressed that the report contained projections that are based on data and mathematical models, and are not hard and fast predictions of the future, their overall premise about the future of Christianity in America is disturbing.
Like you, I am not surprised that Christianity is declining in this country and other countries. We know some of the reasons:
- A busyness and grasping materialism that depletes the soul’s desire for transcendence.
- Greater affiliation with politics as one’s focus in life.
- Concurrently, the rise of Christian Neo-Nationalism — the flag is more important than the Cross of Jesus.
- Even as most Americans have a religious preference and say religion is at least fairly important to them, much smaller numbers regularly attend religious services.
- Faking disciples instead of making disciples (Church Future: Seven Laws of Real Church Growth).
Whether we want to admit it or not, the “cure” is not an easy organizational fix — hiring or firing a pastor, hiring the young extrovert leader, changing the music, or rebranding the church’s name and mission. Sadly, evidence is clear that these Band-aids only delay the inevitable.
I think the answer is spiritual, communal, and demanding of the courage to change. In other words, a deep change more internal than external.
I am not a researcher or statistician, but if I were to ask you How important is your faith?, what would you say? Are you growing in your commitment to reading Scripture, praying, and sharing your love for God with others?
How important are church attendance and engagement to you? When was the last time you attended worship at First Pres? What ministries and gifts are you using for the Lord in or through this church?
Courage to change:
What are you willing to change, discard, or start doing to grow in spiritual vibrancy?
I will say more about these three areas in future articles on this platform.
The Church falters when we falter. If we lose passion for the things of God, the church’s life together also suffers.
Jesus promised that he would build his Church, but we must also cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he transforms us into the image of Christ.
I am looking forward to seeing as many as possible of you in person for our worship service on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary or online.
Rev. Raymond Hylton