Down But Not Out

This past May 12 the Pew Research Center published their most recent religious survey titled America’s Changing Religious Landscape. There was an overall fall of Christians in America from 78.4% to 70.6% during the time period of 2007 to 2014. This was almost matched by the increase in those who claim no religious affiliation from 16.1% to 22.8%. Those claiming no religious affiliation are called the “nones.” There was a slight rise in those professing a non-Christian faith from 4.7% to 5.9%.

The Christian group facing the greatest decline was Mainline Protestants from 18.1% to 14.7%, followed by Catholics from 23.9% to 20.8%, with Evangelical Protestants experiencing the least decline from 26.3% to 25.4%.

Statistical data is difficult to interpret accurately, but they do give us a glimpse of trends and given the current cultural climate and its clash with orthodox Christianity, the decline of Christianity’s popularity is not all that strange.

Some within the body of believers are claiming this is the apostasy or “falling away” foretold in Second Thessalonians 2:3. Others see the decline as the exit of nominal Christians who were never committed to Christ or His church and have been easily swayed by the rise of atheism, agnosticism and other secular viewpoints.

Russell Moore the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission views these findings as “good news.” Moore said, “Christianity isn’t normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it’s good news for the church.” He went on to say, “The churches that are thriving are the vibrant, countercultural congregations that aren’t afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture.”

The apostle John saw a similar defection in his day, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us,” 1 John 2:19. Difficult times help to define the lines of demarcation of who is committed to Christ and who is not.

Those who say these results portend the fall of Christianity and the death of the church are overly optimistic. The church while still in its infancy survived the full brunt of persecution levied by the Roman Empire; it not only survived, it thrived. It will take more than name-calling, lack of popularity and a handful of adverse court decisions to kill the greatest movement in the history of mankind.

John had something to say about that as well, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” 1 John 4:4.

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