And the home of the… Christians?
A new study published by the Pew Research Center suggests that Christianity in America is on a fast decline.
Pew said, “The United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly 7-in-10 – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey … finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.”
That is not all. “Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.”
Most of the drop was seen among mainline Protestants and Catholics, but Evangelical Christians are in decline as well. Or at least those who say they are.
And that is the bigger story behind this story: nominal Christianity in America is what’s dying. As Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore points out, that is a good thing. He said, “We do not have more atheists in America. We have more honest atheists in America. Again, that’s good news. The gospel comes to sinners, not to the righteous.”
The Pew study, therefore, should not cause panic, but it should cause us to pray and act. Even if Christianity were to die a slow death in North America, there are still large parts of the world which are experiencing New Testament-growth of the Faith.
In his book, The Next Christendom, author Philip Jenkins predicts that the future of global Christianity would be southward (e.g. South America, Asia and Africa). Throughout the ages, the move of God has crisscrossed the globe. While we pray and believe God will bring revival to our land, we know that the Lord will not forsake His people and that the church of God will prevail (Matt. 16:18).
After all, in 1971, Soviet Russian Communism seemed unstoppable. They ruled more than half of the world, including China, Cuba and large parts of Eastern Europe. They had every armed weapon the United States and West did and a level of peace and prosperity not previously enjoyed before the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Who would have predicted that in a few years, it would crumble?
In a similar way, today the secular, evolutionary worldview is on the march and looks unbeatable. This secular mindset has taken over once Christian strongholds, including universities and hospitals.
Yet you could easily make the case that secularism, not Christianity, is about to die, and that religion in general is on the rise. Sadly other religions are on the rise, including Islam and Mormonism, but that should give us hope that spiritual hunger does not die.
In the end, the Pew study offers a good reminder for Christians in Oklahoma to share Jesus while there is time, especially with our children and young people. It is also a call to live out our faith so non-believers will see that our lives and lips match, and to pray like never before. We believe God can do a great work; indeed we believe it, no matter what a new study may say.