Recent statistics show the number of Americans who identify as Christians is declining. What does that mean for the state of the church in America? Ed Stetzer has crunched the numbers, and he says it’s important how we define the term Christian.
“There is a sense for a lot of Christians that we are losing, or have lost, our home field advantage.”
“Remember that 70-75% of Americans say that they’re Christians, but they don’t all mean the same thing when they say that. Some people mean, ‘I’m a good person,’ or ‘I was baptized when I was an infant or when I was at church.’ Some people mean, ‘I get up every day, read my Bible, I go to church on Sunday and I’m seeking the Lord.”
While the total number of professing Christians is decreasing, the number of devout believers, those who attend church regularly and structure their life around their faith, has remained steady.
“The devout numbers have remained steady while America becomes more secular. How can that be both? The percentage of people who are devout is actually a minority in our culture. About one out of four people are devoutly religious.”
“Twenty years ago, one out of four people were devoutly religious. What’s happened is the other folks who aren’t devoutly religious, most were nominally religious, now they’ve become less religious. That makes our culture as a whole feel less religious.”
But as America’s culture shifts toward a more secular majority, Stetzer says the church has an opportunity to be a clarion voice to point people toward hope in Jesus:
“We’ve never been a majority; devout, practicing Christians or people of faith have never been a religious majority. We’ve consistently been a minority…and now as the culture is becoming more secular, it’s feeling like we’re the minority we’ve always been.”
“One great thing: we could be a convictional minority in the midst of a world that needs to hear the Good News of the gospel.”
Ed Stetzer is a researcher, author, pastor and church-planter. He holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.The state of America's church in 2016,