Dust on the Pews

This past week, Gallup, the renowned polling, research, and analysis firm, issued a new report on the status of the church in America.
Photo by Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gallup, the renowned polling, research, and analysis firm, issued a new report on the status of the church in America.

What should have been shocking news was, unfortunately not.

Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend.

In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

Straying from Worship

Photo by Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The survey results were not a surprise. Gallup has been watching and charting church attendance by demographics since 1937. It is likely that the accumulated data from some 6,000 interviewees are fairly accurate. The percentage of people allegedly attending some house of worship on a regular basis has been dropping like a rock since the turn of the century.

Church membership ran at or about 70% from 1937 until 1999. The percentage of church membership has declined consistently since that final survey of the 1990s, from 70% to 64% to 61% to 57% to 55% to 50% and now, to 47%.

The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. “As would be expected, Americans without a religious preference are highly unlikely to belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque.”

The report goes on to postulate that “The decline in church membership, then, appears largely tied to population change” in which “traditionalists” are being replaced in the American population by Millennials and Gen Z young people whose interests lie elsewhere. Nevertheless, declines in church membership are evident in every age group.

Staying a Religious Nation

Under the heading of “Implications,” the analysis makes two false assumptions rooted in a misunderstanding of what church membership means.

The U.S. remains a religious nation.

The U.S. is a secular nation. At no time whatsoever has it been a Christian nation. If our country is a religious nation, its religion is secularism. In other words, more people embrace the comfortable lifestyle that our progenitors bequeathed to us as their legacy than the eternal life that the Lord God has offered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Churches are only as strong as their membership and are dependent on their members for financial support and service to keep operating.

This sounds right – and it probably is from an accounting perspective. But neither the Christ-following global church nor any Christ-following local church is dependent upon its membership to finance its operations. It just appears that way.

The church belongs to Jesus Christ. He has promised to supply its needs. He blesses people with the ability to give of themselves and the abundance He has provided to them.

Jesus said that the gate of hell will not prevail against His church. The decline in church membership may actually be an indication of how many people are really in a personal relationship with Christ.

The invitation to follow Christ requires daily self-denial and affection for Him that is so deep that following His commands and His Word is without question. That might even include attending church.

Read more news on Christian Ministry on Missions Box.

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