Christianity is Shrinking in the U.S., Study Says…
“Christians are likely to be a minority in the U.S. by 2050, Pew Research Center says.”
This headline really isn’t surprising to those who are paying attention to the culture and its recent trends. The United States of America is growing more secular, not more religious. Anthropologists and Sociologists have been noting this shift for some time.
In the 1990’s, nearly 90% of all American adults described themselves as Christian. That, by itself, is an incredible statistic.
Today, that percentage has fallen to 64%...a nearly 30 point drop. That equates to about 1% of adults per year.
Today, 30% of U.S. adults claim no religion, with the other 6% being represented by Jews, Muslims, and others.
-And while these trends are not surprising, it ought to sober us: In 30 years, Christianity will no longer be the dominant worldview of our country.
Now, some would argue that true, biblical Christianity is not the dominant worldview even now, and I would tend to agree. But, to the point of the article, Christianity’s influence is quickly fading away in our country.
-Baptist Press picked up the story from the Pew Research Center saying,
“Christians are projected to comprise less than half of the U.S. population by 2050 in a Pew Research study of how current trends might play out among believers and non-believers in the coming decades. In the best-case scenario of how trends might continue to unfold, which Pew presents as the most unlikely and most optimistic possibility, Pew projects the Christian share of the U.S. population to shrink from a current 64 percent to between 54 percent and 35 percent by 2070. In the scenario Pew described as most likely, Christians would comprise 39 percent of Americans by 2070, losing their majority status as early as 2050 at 47 percent of the national population.”
What Does this Mean for the American Church?
-It would be hard to state all the implications of this coming reality—other than, "this is going to be hard"—but we could summarize by saying: Churches and Christians must Get Serious about the Gospel.
As Dr. Al Mohler and others have noted, American culture tends to be downstream from British culture, and the Brits are definitely living in a post-Christian culture. There are certainly elements of Christian influence still in place (Just consider how religious the ceremonies around the Queen’s passing have been). But, when it comes to the everyday lives and worldview of individual Brits, Christianity has been long gone.
America is tracking in a very similar direction, and the statistics back that up. In three short decades, Christians will be a minority in the United States of America. Perhaps even sooner. That’s sobering.
-So, what does the American Church need to be doing to prepare?
First, we shouldn’t be shocked. This kind of thing has happened before throughout the history of the Church.
-As the gospel spreads, Christianity takes hold in a culture and becomes the dominant way of life. But overtime, people lose their commitment to the faith and begin to value something else.
As the old saying goes, what one generation fails to prioritize, the next generation views as optional, and the third generation moves away from...and so on and so forth.
The Old Testament Israelites demonstrate this reality: A faithful generation gave way to a less faithful generation, and ultimately the people became almost entirely unfaithful.
In fact, the Apostle warns us about this reality by pointing to the unfaithfulness of Israel saying, "Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."
Second, the Church should take this as a renewed call to faithfulness.
-The goal of the Church is not to stop the tide of secularism, but to remain faithful to the Word of God and the mission of God.
The Church’s job is not to dictate the ebb and flow of history, but to live out the gospel as God unfolds His plan.
We must remember Paul’s words from Eph. 1:10 that in Christ, God is working His “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”
That doesn’t change just because our particular culture is changing around us.
The Church has the confidence of knowing that all things are unfolding according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), and that His will for us remains steady.
Third, Churches must evaluate themselves.
-For a long time, American Churches have enjoyed majority status in our culture. That is shrinking now, and according to the Pew study, the decline is only going to continue.
That means that a lot of assumptions that Churches have been used to making will no longer hold true.
Even now, in the aftermath of Covid and with the current cultural challenges, people just are not attending Church like they did before. It is now culturally acceptable to do other things on Sunday. More and more, sports associations are scheduling games and practices on Sundays and Wednesdays; leisure activities are taking precedent; and people just are not prioritizing the gathering of God’s people.
As Christianity loses its place in American culture, churches will have to grapple with mission and structure as they seek to remain faithful in an unfaithful environment.
Fourth, Churches should prepare.
-For much of American history, Churches have enjoyed a privileged and respected standing in the culture. That is changing, and will continue to change. Two major things are occurring inside the church world right now: Churches and denominations are either standing for biblical truth, or they are rending themselves in halves and thirds over current cultural issues.
Churches and denominations must steel themselves for the coming cultural conflict. As Dr. Mohler recently said, the culture has decided to go to war with the Church, and that war is just getting started.
How Should Individual Christians Respond to this News?
-As with Churches, Christians shouldn’t be surprised. While this is a new development in our lifetime, it's nothing new in the history of Christianity. But, there are some difficult realities that we are facing, and we will continue to face them with increasing pressure. We’ve got to be preparing for changes…
Changes in our workplaces;
Changes in medicine and the practice of medicine;
Changes in politics and governmental policies;
Changes in our American freedoms;
Changes in the larger cultural conversations and societal norms;
Changes in what’s shown and portrayed in entertainment;
- For many, these changes are already taking place -
Christians in the medical field are already being forced to deal with some of these issues in a head-on, confrontational way.
Christians in corporate America are facing new pressures from their leadership.
And the reality is, these coming changes are and will affect every follower of Jesus in big and small ways.
So how do we prepare? By remaining faithful to Christ and the call of faith.
Staying grounded in the eternal Word of God.
Grounding ourselves in faithful local Churches.
Planting and strengthening churches.
Discipling the faithful.
Evangelizing the lost.
Marrying and having Christian homes.
Raising our children in the hope of Christ.
Living in a world darkness with the light of Christ on full display.
Lots more to say and discuss, and by God’s grace, the Church will be getting herself ready over these next 30 years. But for now, let’s pray that God grants us faithfulness in the midst of an unfaithful culture.
Here a few other pieces I have written I have written about these coming challenges ...