In an interesting January 23, 2018 on-line article by the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins notes that researchers have been trying to get a read on the state of Christianity in America. That is, they are trying to determine whether Christianity is growing or dying out in the U.S. Up until now, reports have been saying that Christianity is on the way out as the major religion of our nation. After years of hearing the same dire predictions, even churchgoers probably assumed the country's faith had dwindled. The headlines have constantly talked about declining church attendance and the millennials' rejection of faith. But are these stories true?
A recent Harvard University study shows that U.S. Christianity isn't only alive, but growing. It's a surprising thing to swallow with the media's drumbeat of declining Christian influence, but powerful new statistics point to a resurgence of the faith that the media has seemed to dismiss. In a lengthy commentary by Glenn Stanton in The Federalist, he pours over the data and explains, "Not only did their examination find no support for this secularization in terms of actual practice and belief, the researchers proclaim that religion continues to enjoy 'persistent and exceptional intensity' in America. These researchers hold our nation 'remains an exceptional outlier and potential counter example to the secularization thesis.'"
Believe it or not, the authors of Harvard's report "found that the percentage of church-attending Americans relative to overall population is more than four times greater today than it was in 1776." In fact, Stanton points out, "The number of attendees has continued to rise each and every decade over our nation's history right up until the present day."
Despite the hemorrhaging of mainline congregations, most analysts say the brunt of the losses are liberal churches. "When the so-called 'progressive' churches question the historicity of Jesus, deny the reality of sin, support abortion, ordain clergy in same-sex relationships and perform their marriages, people desiring real Christianity head elsewhere," Stanton reminds people. "Fact: evangelical churches gain five new congregants exiled from the liberal churches for every one they lose for any reason. They also do a better job of retaining believers from childhood to adulthood than do mainline churches."
Christianity is shifting not dying. The number of people who read their Bible, go to church weekly, and pray regularly has been "steel-bar constant" for the last half-century. "Patently persistent," as Harvard calls it. It also happens to be in astounding contrast to other nations. "Attending services more than once a week continues to be twice as high among Americans compared to the next highest-attending industrial country, and three times higher than the average comparable nation."
What about the doom and gloom we keep hearing about millennials leaving the church? Is the next generation as lost as the media makes it out to be? Yes and no. One thing to keep in mind about Pew's research and others', Stanton cautions, is that a lot of these millennials who are "abandoning their faith" didn't have much to begin with. "Pew reports that of young adults who left their faith, only 11 percent said they had a strong faith in childhood while 89 percent said they came from a home that had a very weak faith in belief and practice." Questioning your beliefs, he points out, is also just part of the maturation process.
So the next time you hear that Christianity is "going the way of the Yellow Pages," don't buy it. Some people only argue that to disparage and diminish you. Don't let them. Rather than listen to their words, listen to the words of Jesus who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Stay strong, Christian! As long as there are Christians living out their faith every day, faith is alive and well in America!
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