May 27, 2015

Is the American Church Dying a Slow Death?

The latest stats indicate the American church is dying a slow death.  

The Christian percentage of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing,

In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians.

Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.  But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.

The decline is being seen mostly in mainline Protestant churches which includes the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Churches USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church.  In 2007, there were an estimated 41 million mainline Protestant adults in the United States.  As of 2014, there are roughly 36 million, a decline of 5 million.

While the big "C' church is in decline, there is good news.  The number of Evangelicals (those who characterize themselves as "born again" Christians) has grown from 34% to 35% and has a total of about 62 million adult adherents.  That is an increase of roughly 2 million since 2007.

Here's the bottom line.  Dying churches are continuing to die a slow death while churches that are alive are continuing to reach people and grow.  What's the difference between the two?

Churches that are just going through the motions are dying...churches that have the Spirit of God resting upon them are alive.  The churches that are growing have an anointing that can only come from God's Spirit.  What's happening in their congregation cannot be explained by their ministry programs, skills or staff.  They realize it is beyond their human abilities and rely upon the power of God's Spirit.

Churches that refuse to change are dying...churches that are flexible and adapt are alive.  If a church is dying, there's a good chance they are still operating like it's 1970.  Churches that are alive are anchored to the truth but geared for the times. 

Churches that have an inward focus are dying...
churches that have an outward focus are alive.  Churches that are passionate about reaching people are growing.  Take a look inside the fastest growing churches in the country and you will see their growth is not coming from "transfer" growth.  It's coming from reaching people who are far from God.  Many of these churches are reaching and baptizing thousands of people each year.  

Churches that are bent on preserving the past are dying...churches that are committed to reaching the next generation are alive.  Dying churches have senior adults that are more concerned about singing the songs they grew up with than they are about reaching their grandchildren's generation.

Churches that isolate themselves from their community are dying....churches that immerse themselves in their community are alive.  Churches that are dying could disappear and the community wouldn't even realize it.  Churches that are alive spend much of their time, energy and resources ministering in their community.

God is building some of the greatest churches in the history of our nation...right now.  Be encouraged.  Churches that are willing to catch the wave of what He is doing can make a huge impact in their community.  

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