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Study: Religion in Decline. What do we do about it?

In my local newspaper the following article appeared documenting the rising number of unreligious people in the country and the growing defection from the ranks of the Christian denominations.

Here is a lengthy quote:

The percentage of people who do not claim a religious identity has nearly doubled since 1990, growing to 15% of Americans last year, researchers with the American Religious Identification Survey found.

Mainline Christian denominations, once bulwarks of the religious landscape, have suffered most from the drift.

Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians are among the denominations that have seen their ranks decline.

Although 86% of Americans identified as Christians in 1990, just 76% said the same last year, the result of onetime adherents rejecting organized religion, the survey concluded.

This is a theme that I have been hammering on for the last four years or so as I realized with ever more clarity that most of the atheists, secular humanists, etc, etc, used to be Christians.   With my background as an apologist some of my recommendations on this score are probably predictable and I won’t go into them now.

The point I want to ram home now is that something has got to change.  If you don’t like my ideas, find your own.  At the rate charted by the article of a loss of 10% of self-identified Christians in just 15 years, in just 40 years Christians will be a minority in this country.  My guess is the decline will be exponential so that that benchmark is reached far sooner.

So what to do?  Friends, if you are a leader of the Church, you’ve got to hole up in a room with a bunch of the other leaders of the Church and you’ve got to put all options on the table.  I’m serious.  You can’t take anything for granted.   I don’t care if you think that ‘the way we do things’ is good and valuable.   If you keep doing them in 50 years we’ll be in the same spot as the Europeans with our large and ornate places of worship and beautiful liturgy- attended by five people, and those are tourists.

I am just a lone voice out in the wilderness, on the front lines between belief and unbelief, a scout if you will.  I am reporting to you generals that that situation is dire, and worse, you are currently sending troops to fight over hills that the Enemy has long abandoned.  You continue to defend the Maginot Line while the Enemy blitzkriegs right around it.  The only difference is that the French knew they had been flanked, while you continue to face the troops east.   They’ll be in Paris before you know it and I am convinced many leaders of the church will be shocked:  “What?  Didn’t we send reinforcements to our line of fortresses?  How can this be?”

In the face of this counsel I have been accused of all sorts of things- legalism, self-righteousness, hubris, and even heresy.  Well my friends, the proof is in the pudding.  Barna has been warning us about this for some time and as the article above illustrates, he isn’t the only one.  The Status Quo cannot be allowed to continue. What is at stake here is only secondarily about American culture or butts in the pews.  10% of America’s population represents some 30,000,000 people.   In another 15 years that is close to another 30 million people who were in our midst who, for one reason or another, are no longer.  These are 30, 60, 90 million people whose immortal souls we need to be concerned about.

My friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to act and act boldly.  All the options need to go on the table.  Now.



3 pings

    • Rev. Shane R. Cota on March 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    The statistics are certainly disturbing, though not surprising. This recent article (http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0310/p09s01-coop.html), written by a fellow commonly known as the Internet Monk speaks to what seem to be related issues. I am curious as to what your take on his reflections may be. I sometimes wonder if we are not simply facing a/the great apostasy, such as Scripture speaks of, that comes near Christ’s return. Of course, I do not see that as any excuse for inaction, or apathy (as in, well, it is just apostasy, la-dee-da). If anything, it is a call to repentance and to step up our efforts in clearly articulating AND reaching out with the Gospel. Our people really need theological revitalization so that they may articulate a reason for the hope that is in them. Thank you for your efforts in this regard.

    • Anthony on March 10, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I agree with most of what the IM says, and usually do. The problem I have with labeling it as a/the great apostasy is that doing so implies that it was generally out of our hands. My assertion would be that this apostasy is of our making; it is our fault. I would agree that it is a call to repentance… but precisely what needs to be repented of is perhaps the key point.

    In regards to the link you provided I especially resonated with #4. You may be interested in another perspective by another Christian apologist. Here is the link: http://www.tektonics.org/gk/indictment.html

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