Skip to main content

The Shrinking Church

In recent years many Christian denominations have acknowledged slower growth rates while claiming an increase in the number of adherents. Certainly, it is good that the Church is experiencing growth and not stagnating, or is it? Do the numbers really tell the whole story?

The recently released American Religious Identification Survey 2008, issued out of Trinity College in Hartford, CT, tells a different story. The Survey does confirm that, from 1990 to 2008, those affiliated with the Christian Church increased some 13.5%, from 151.2 million to 173.4 million. However, during that same time the US population increased about 30% from 175.4 million to 228.2 million.

What this survey found is that those who identified themselves with the Christian Church now represent 76% of the population; whereas, in 1990 this group represented 86.2% of the population. So, compared to the population as a whole, the Christian Church is shrinking in size, and possibly influence.

When broken down into subcategories, (i.e. Baptists, Methodists, Lutheran, etc.) almost all groups either saw only modest growth or a decrease in the percentage of the overall population they represented in 2008, from that of 1990. A few groups however did see quite remarkable growth and serve as good indicators of the spiritual trends emerging in today's culture.

During this same time frame, the survey indicates "eastern religions" have increased from 0.4% of the population to 0.9% and Buddhism, from 0.2% to 0.5%. This means that each of these have experienced over a 50% growth rate. Atheism and agnosticism (which were grouped together in 1990's survey) have also increased over 50%, from 0.7% of the population to 1.6%; as has the Muslim growth rate, increasing from 0.3% of the population to 0.6%.

Combined, these five groups have increased from representing 1.6% of the population to representing 3.6% of the population. To give this some perspective, they comprise a larger, or nearly as large, segment of the population than the Jewish religion (1.2%) and the following Christian groups: Lutherans (3.8%), Presbyterian (2.1%), Episcopal/Anglican (1.1%), Pentecostal (3.5%)

While mainline Christian churches continue to experience small growth, they are actually growing smaller in relation to the overall population. At the same time, the Survey found that those who choose not to identify themselves with any particular religion are seeing explosive growth, increasing from 8.2% of the population in 1990 to 14.1% in 2001 and now to 15%, in 2008.

Clearly, these trends indicate there is a growing disinterest in the Christian Church; at least as it is currently presented or perceived. This is not the first time in its history the Church has been so viewed. Furthermore, these statistics, and other trends that we have been reporting, seem to give evidenced that the culture is doing a much better job of absorbing the Church than is the Church in changing the culture.

It is imperative that those who follow Christ begin to engage the culture with the redemptive message of the gospel. For, it is only the hope that we have in Christ that can turn around these numbers and the trends they represent. And, that is certainly something to hope, pray, and labor for.

Truly, the fields are white unto harvest.

Comments

Murphy Monkey said…
Jan Markell has an interesting article that is in line with yours.

http://bible-prophecy-today.blogspot.com/2009/03/emergent-church-could-submerge-yours.html
lawahall said…
I think the problem with the church today is that the church does not love and serve those who are hurting and in need today. Love is the key that opens the doors of all men's hearts. Love is an action word that shows itself as caring and compassionate. There are people outside of the churches today, who are jobless, hungry and needing shelter and other bare-necessities of life that the church is not ministering to. I believe the New Testament churches of the book of Acts, brought assets of the congregation together and no one had needs that was not provided for. This is one big difference from the churches of our era. The government has to take care of those in need and so the church is seemingly fine with this and we build our multi-million dollar buildings and let the world look upon them and ask: I wonder how much food and clothes and shelter could that have provided for a hungry, naked, and homeless man who lives under a bridge. We need to consider those in need and minister to them or the church as we know it today will cease to grow and stagnate and soon die out. Those who are hurting in the world today are jealous of the high and mighty church. I believe this is the reason we can't grow and prosper. Jesus met the needs of those who came to Him. We churches must do the same or we will end up like the seven churches in the book of Revelation...God will spit us out of His mouth, like warm water.

Popular posts from this blog

"No Te Preocupes" by Jeff Sutherland

“Si me dieras el si!”

Loosely translated this means, “If only she would say yes”. This is the only sentence I learned in my four quarters of Spanish other than, “Donde es el bano?” (Where is the bathroom), and “Yo quiero mas cervasas.” (I need more beer). The latter two, I must admit, were closely connected as part of my college days. The former, however, proved to have much greater importance as it was a sentence I learned while attempting to woo my future bride into marrying me.

Fortunately God in His infinite wisdom convinced my bride to say yes because He knew I needed lots of help staying close to Him. He also knew she needed to be challenged by my foolish ideas.

In addition to my wife, I have also learned much from God through, more than 30 years of toiling in the soil, making sure the grounds and greens at the golf course were in good shape. Recently, I have seen evidence of this as He used my new amigos and fellow workers to teach me and them more about Him and His ways.

I did…

Whatever Happened to "Merry Christmas"?

As I grow older, I find myself sounding more and more like my parents and those of their generation. I catch myself saying things like, “When I was growing up…”, or “I remember when…”, or “It didn’t use to be this way, why in the old days…”

So, having admitted this, let me say, I can remember when you would go to the store during Christmas and, after finishing your shopping, the store clerk would wish you a Merry Christmas; which you joyfully returned. But, it wasn’t just in stores, practically everyone wished one another a Merry Christmas.

Not today, however. Today I am bombarded with, “Happy Holidays”. And whereas Christmas cards used to proclaim boldly, “Merry Christmas”, now they simply wish the recipient a “Happy Holiday”, or “Seasons Greetings”. Such a generic proclamation could refer to any holiday, or any season.

On this point, Christmas Eve 2002, the New York Times ran an article that included the following observation about this “holiday” season:

“Heaven forbid that anyone …

Say It Ain't So Reba!

Grammy award winning, country singer, Reba McEntire has had numerous hit records. She’s been in movies, had her own television show, and has several product lines she endorses. Without question, she presents that down-home country likability. In fact, you might say she’s everyone’s “country darling”.

However, even she must realize that what she confessed to believe, during a recent interview in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette (Oct 16), will be so startling to many that it will dramatically change how they regard her. The interview starts out innocently enough, with her talking about her sitcom, movies, and even her foray into horse racing.
She even gives a nod to God acknowledging her talent is, “a gift from God”. And that if she didn’t use it, she, “wouldn’t blame Him one bit if he took it away and gave it to someone else”.
Nothing all that controversial so far. However, her answer when asked to reveal a secret for her fans will surprise many of them. The “secret” seems innocent enough wh…