Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some Startling Statisfics on the Decline of Christianity in the US & the Need for Church Planting

Mission Alive has put out the following statistics on population growth, church decline, the fall of Christianity in the US, and the opportunity and need for church planting. Note the following:


Here is the bad news:
  • Between 1990 and 2000 there was a net gain of 4600 churches in the US; however, to simply maintain the pace with population growth a gain
    of 38,800 was needed.
  • Between 80-85% of churches in the US are in numeric decline.
  • From 1990-2001 the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "Christian" dropped nearly 10%. At that rate, non-Christians will outnumber Christians of any denomination by 2042.
  • Many churches struggle with our changing society and increasingly post-modern culture. Perhaps out of fear, many turn inward and are unable to reach their community with the good news.
Here is some demographic data:
  • The US population is expected to reach 392 million by 2050, up from 300 million in 2006. Most of the increase will be in metropolitan areas. This represents a 31% increase in 42 years.
  • 10 US metro areas grew in excess of 40% in the past decade: metro areas as divergent as Naples, FL., Yuma, AZ, Fayetteville, AR, and Boise, ID.
  • Estimates are that 60% of the population increase in the US in the next 50 years will be among immigrant peoples.
  • By 2050, less than 53 percent will be non-Hispanic White, 16 percent will be Black; 23 percent will be Hispanic; 10 percent will be Asian and Pacific Islander.
Here are the opportunities:
  • American suburban life is changing to be characterized by isolation, individualism, and consumerism, providing both challenges and entree points for the gospel.
  • New churches tend to grow faster than existing churches, have a greater percentage of young people and incorporate people faster than existing churches.
  • Churches less than 15 years old gain 60%-80% of their members from people not attending any worshiping body, while in churches more than 15 years old 80%-90% of new members transfer from other churches.
It is clear from these statistics that Christianity in America is on a dramatic downward trend. Only God can reduce this decline. The influx of immigrants represents both a challenge and an opportunity for us. Legal immigration has been very good for America. In fact, this country was built by immigrants, who came motivated and inspired to life a better way of life. As far as minorities and churches, historically, our fellowship has not done a good job of reaching the non-White population. But immigrants are often very open to new faith, as the rest of their lives are in flux already. This is why groups such as Genesis Alliance, a Latino church planting group that I'm on the board of, are so important. We need to plant many new "minority" churches to reach these growing populations.

It is also clear that predominantly white churches and established churches of all ethnicities are needed to plant churches. The sad fact is, very few churches are growing at all, and those that are are growing through transfer growth. Unfortunately, most churches are satisfied if they merely meet the budget and gain members through transfer growth.

We need to plant many, many new churches, as this is one of the best evangelistic methods there is.

What stands out to you about these statistics?

3 comments:

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RWayne said...

There is a phrase that I have heard from a number of people; they say of themselves, "I am spiritual, but not religious." It is an interesting description of oneself, I suppose. I have a friend in New York who has said that he has left the Catholic Church forever. It might just be an embellished excuse, but he speaks of the willingness of Christians to go to war and murder (his words, not mine).

In another case, I have an old friend who says that she's embarrassed being in a church where last week half the members congregated in front of a poorly installed storm door where they viewed the Virgin Mary in the glass.

I think that a lot of us make up excuses for everything we don't want to do. For some reason, a lot of people don't want to go to church. That is the problem. The solution would be to find out why people don't want to go to church.

I believe the good news is that it is not because any of them is really giving up on Christianity.

Historically, the Church of Christ has given a lot of people a hard time about stuff that someone just simply MADE UP - and then tagged a convenient scripture to it. I could go through the list, but that would be far and away beside the point and you know how that goes. As I have grown older, I have come to realize that I have as many disagreements with one church as I might have with another. It is all based on someone's interpretation of what the Bible says or what it means.

In an old Jackie Gleason movie, he stands in front of a mirror admiring himself and then he says, "its not easy being a fat narcissist." Well, its not easy being a member of a church where so many things out of the Bible are perceived as literal. There are Christians who argue that there was never any such thing as dinosaurs, the earth is only (i don't know) ?6,000?years old. There is the ever ongoing pursuit to prove that the earth actually stood still one day, or that someone lived 100s and 100s of years. Those are all the excuses that are used by those who don't want to go to church. By focusing on the specifics of the story, the bigger point is mostly missed.

I guess that some of us are willing to accept each other for whatever is believed. However, I do have an appreciation for those who find it uncomfortable sitting through a Bible class where someone misses the whole point of the scriptures referred to, only to go on about the superficial story that seems highly improbable; in fact.

I think that Christianity is a big broad fundamental. It seems too bad that we are so divided by congregations; so divided by interpretations and absolute certainties. It seems to weaken our place in the world by being so divided.

Adding to the divisions is race, creed, culture and language. I guess there is a good reason for Christian Churches being so ethnically divided; but I am not sure that I buy into all those reasons. I guess it is language in some cases and culture in other cases. It doesn't seem right, but it seems to be what everyone wants to do.

It seems like the best thing Christians can do to save Christianity is to try very hard to be Christians. The second thing is to stop scaring people off with absolute certainties about things that aren't necessarily so. Stop arguing about things that don't really make a difference. I think that Christians should always focus on the fundamentals that all humans relate to. I think that Christians should accept the natural order that God shows in every aspect of nature. Miracles - shmiracles - we're living in the middle of the biggest miracle anyone could(not) ever imagine. It all seems to make sense when you look and see the world as it really is.

Everything seems to run in cycles. One day there will be a resurgence in the Church.

James Nored said...

Rwayne,

Some good thoughts here. You said, "It seems like the best thing Christians can do to save Christianity is to try very hard to be Christians. The second thing is to stop scaring people off with absolute certainties about things that aren't necessarily so."

I believe that you have hit on what is important here. The best way to overcome negative stereotypes is for people in our daily lives to see someone who is authentically seeking to imitate Christ. This will crush the stereotype.

And eliminating dogmatism on peripheral issues is not only necessary to reach a postmodern world, it is healthy. The Pharisees argued about and obsessed about her peripherals. Jesus summed up the entire law in two commands--love God, love your neighbor. We would do well to concentrate on these two commands.