Michael Brown on Is Christianity Really Experiencing a Numerical Decline in America?

Do recent polls really tell the full story here in America? Is it true that Christianity is experiencing a serious, ongoing, numerical decline? Those polls could well be accurate, speaking of a major spiritual crisis in our nation. But there may be a different way to understand what is happening, one that points to separation and refining more than to backsliding and apostasy.

First, let’s look at the results of the most recent Pew Research Center poll.

As reported on October 19, “The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’ now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”

Additionally, “Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.”

Most significantly, “More than eight-in-ten members of the Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945) describe themselves as Christians (84%), as do three-quarters of Baby Boomers (76%). In stark contrast, only half of Millennials (49%) describe themselves as Christians; four-in-ten are religious ‘nones,’ and one-in-ten Millennials identify with non-Christian faiths.”

What are we to make of this? And do these figures truly indicate that Christianity is in numerical decline in America?

There is certainly a problem when it comes to the younger generations, which identify as Christians at an alarmingly lower rate than did their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

That cannot be minimized or denied.

Yet, at the same time, “self-described Christians report that they attend religious services at about the same rate today as in 2009. Today, 62% of Christians say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, which is identical to the share who said the same in 2009. In other words, the nation’s overall rate of religious attendance is declining not because Christians are attending church less often, but rather because there are now fewer Christians as a share of the population.”

And this is what makes me wonder about what these poll numbers really represent.

You see, as I travel around the country, I’m constantly speaking in congregations which are growing and multiplying. They are adding more services. They are expanding their buildings. They are planting new satellites. And, to my knowledge, they are not the exceptional, out of the ordinary, outliers. There are many others like them.

And it’s not just a matter of lateral transfer, meaning that they are growing at the expense of other churches, as members from Congregation A leave for Congregation B. That certainly happens, to some extent.

But many of these churches are seeing new converts on a regular basis, both young and old. And they are seeing lots of enthusiasm among their congregants.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown