Shocking statistics about the rapid decline of the church in American promotes an agenda of those outside of the church to show that Christians should be ignored because it Christianity is declining. Sharing these distorted statistics by those inside of the church usually leads to an invitation to get involved with a specific church program or curriculum to solve the problem. However, one small problem with these statistics showing that church attendance in America is in rapid decline are FALSE.
Bradley Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, debunks several of popular myths about Christianity during the last generation. The notion that Christianity is in rapid decline is one of them. In fact, the percentage of Christians in America is much higher at the beginning of the 21st century than the beginning of the 19th century. Have you seen any stories on CNN with this fact? Have your children come home from studying American history at a public school and reminded you of this fact? Hmmm… makes you wonder if reporters and textbook writers or ignorant or have a hidden agenda. Probably both.It is true that mainline Christian denominations have declined in the last generation. This reality affirms the principle that churches that try to grow by being accommodating to the culture are more likely to decline. One reason may be that people who are not challenged by their faith get the message that faith must not really be that important. If it doesn’t really matter, why bother getting up on Sunday mornings? The reduction of fringe members actually strengthens Christianity because those who claim to be Christians, but do not really practice their faith, either join a church that calls them to a higher commitment or drop out and stop claiming to be a Christian. Evangelical churches have grown at a faster rate then the general population in the last generation. Some of this growth has come from people who formerly were part of a mainline denomination.
Another factor affecting church growth is immigration. Like other mainline denominations people are leaving the Catholic church; however, the addition of immigrants from mostly Catholic countries has kept overall numbers of Catholics in the USA fairly stable.
In addition to these points, Wright debunks other widely quoted myths like the decline of church attendance of the youth over the last twenty years, that Christians have the same divorce rates as those outside of the faith, and that evangelicals are less respected today than twenty years ago.
Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told is definitely worth a read to get your bearings on what is really happening with Christianity in America and reveals that the sky is not falling on the church in America. See also “Fewer than half of the country now claims to be Protestant. Is the sky falling?”