I want you to think about the title to this blog post and ask yourself, “What has this to do with religion?” Here are my thoughts.
In less than 100 years the U.S. has gone from riding on horses to putting a man on the moon. That’s incredible progress; it’s also a demonstration of how quickly things can change. So, what has this to do with religion?
- According to a Pew study, from 2007–2014 the percentage of U.S. who identified as Christians fell from 78 percent to 70 percent. That’s just seven years! If we can go from horses to the moon in less than 100 years, is it too much to believe that by 2035 less than 50 percent of the population will identify as Christians?
- One of the most recent polls of Millennials shows that 44 percent of them prefer socialism over capitalism. Add to that a recent Pew study shows that 23 percent of Americans are either atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Based on these statistics, if we can go from a horse to a rocket in less than 100 years, is it too much to see how we could go from a “nation under God” to a nation without God? Recently I posted my predictions about the world in 2050. Predictions 7 and 8 laid the foundation for this post. You might want to look at that post before reading further.
- Now consider this – history has shown that the one thing that sustains a religion is the passion of its followers. Remove the passion and the religion dies a slow death. Is it too much to see how we could wind up with a totally secular, unreligious nation?
Based on the above, I have serious concerns for the future of Christianity in the U.S.
Notice I didn’t say “the future of religion.” Whereas Christians are becoming less passionate about their faith, other religions are gaining passion for their faith. The same Pew study showed the percentage of Americans who identify as atheist, agnostic or say they are “nothing in particular” climbed from 16 percent to 23 percent between 2007–2014. Christianity is declining in the U.S. whereas other religions are growing.
I think the U.S. is at a turning point in many ways, but especially for Christianity. It’s almost like it’s now or never that we turn these statistics around. Either Christianity recovers over the next ten years or it will eventually retreat underground. As the country gets more secular and increasingly socialist, Christians will not be a welcome sect.
Now’s the time we must focus all our efforts on planting more churches. The ratio of population served by each church has slipped from 3,897 in 1900 to 6,139 in 2010. Outside of the South, the numbers are even more sobering. In the Northeast, the ratio is over 50,000 people per church. Only eleven states are better than average and even those have a higher ratio than seventy years ago. Add to this the fact that some 85 percent of all present churches are either on a plateau or are declining and you have the making of a crisis.
These figures illustrate why the need for more churches is the number one issue facing Christianity in the twenty-first century. The majority of pastors today are laboring at trying to keep dying churches alive. If I could do one thing, it would be to change that. Instead of trying to prop up dying churches, my prayer is that the majority of pastors going forward will decide to forgo taking an established church and will dedicate their ministry to discipling people who want to plant churches. That is our future folks!