by Mike James
I recently read some troubling survey data in Midnight Call magazine on church membership in the United States (US). The article was titled, “Church Membership Down Sharply.” Here is some of what I learned.
Between the years 1937 and 1976 US church membership was 70% or higher. From the 1970s to the 1990s it was down to an average of 68%. Gallup data from 2018 shows the percentage of US adults who claim church membership down to 50%.
From 1998-2000 90% of Americans claimed to be affiliated with a religion. About 8% stated they had no religion and 2% said they “didn’t know” or they refused to answer. From 2016-2018 Gallup conducted a similar poll with discouraging results on religious beliefs. Now 77% of respondents claimed a religious affiliation. A whopping 19% claimed no religious affiliation and 4% “don’t know” or refused to respond.
If you think that’s bad get a load of this. More Gallup polling data for the 2016-2018 period found the following:
Traditionalists (born 1945 or earlier) 89% had a religion 9% no religion
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) 84% had a religion 14% no religion
Generation X (born 1965-1979) 79% had a religion 18% no religion
Millennials (born 1980-2000) 68% had a religion. 29% no religion
Another large polling group in the US, the Pew Research Center, provides similar data on the decrease of Christianity in the US. According to Pew, between 2007 and 2014, Christianity in the US fell from 78.4% to 70.6%. During this same period the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has risen from 16.1% to 22.8%. Non-Christian based religions have risen in this timeframe from 4.7% to 5.9%.
Gallup polling had the percentage of the US population who affiliated with Christianity at 75% in 2015. About 19.6 of the population was unaffiliated with religion and 5.2% of the population claimed another religion. Despite the slight differences in the Pew and Gallup polling both groups are seeing a downward spiral for Christianity in the US. In the 1950s Gallup consistently found Christian affiliation to be in the 90% range.
What do all these statistics tell us about the future of our country? As I see it things don’t look good. Let’s not forget the 70% of Christians who claim to be Christian’s don’t necessarily believe the same as Church of God believing Christian’s. Many of them don’t believe the entire Bible is God’s word.
Let’s just analyze the Pew research between 2007 and 2014. If Christianity continues to dwindle 8% points every seven years we will be down to 50% of the country claiming Christian affiliation by about 2035.
Now trends can change, but with more of our Christians being older and many of our younger population moving away from formal religion, the trends may hold. What will that mean for our future American culture? Those of you who are my age (56) or older have seen big changes in this country over the past 56 years. Just think about some of the laws that have changed during the last 50 years. Abortion has been legalized. Gay marriage is now normal. Marijuana is legal in some states. Prayer in school was made illegal.
Other trends that might have something to do with a decrease in Christianity in the US include the following. More children are being born to mothers who are not married. Marriage rates are also down as more couples delay marriage or just co-habitat together. Pornography is all over the internet and is more accessible today than ever before.
Now that I may have brought you down with all this information I want to build you back up. We are not at the end yet. Read Matthew 24 again and note verses like 9-10: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.” Now a number are turning from the faith, but we have not reached the place in this country where Christian’s are being persecuted and put to death. Things could probably change, but I think that change will not happen quickly as far as how humans see time. So what’s my point? Work while there is still time to work! Get out there and minister for God’s work in some way while we still have the time to do it. Yes, the world will get worse before it gets better. But you still have the freedom and means in this country to promote God’s word and lifestyle. Do it!