Friday, November 4, 2022

Always a minority. . .

When the Pew Research Center released their report “Modeling the Future of Religion in America” a few months ago, they plotted out the trends noted over the past 30 years and came to the conclusion that  Christianity will lose it’s majority status in the US in the coming decades -- unless the trend reverses.

So, according to the Pew study, about 64% of Americans were Christian in 2020 (self-identified?); that broken down to 40% various Protestant (perhaps non-Roman Catholic would be more accurate) and 21% Roman Catholic. But the trends, hastened by the pandemic, do not paint a good picture down the road. Less frequent church attendance even among the regulars and the decline in the number of children and the number of children in church along with many other factors have led them to project that number could be as low as 35% in 2070 and even 25% in 2100.

Those in the study suggest that the US could and is perhaps now reflecting the experience of what has happened in Europe. “In Great Britain, for example, nones surpassed Christians to become the largest group in 2009, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey.” 

No projection is certain but it is certain that it could be more likely to come true if the churches do little or nothing about it.  Of course, other factors could also adjust the outcomes — everything from war to  economic depression to changing immigration patterns to religious innovations could slow or even reverse the current religious trends.

I have no doubt they are more likely to be accurate than inaccurate.  We have seen it coming for a long time.  It was first reflected in the demographics of most church bodies, the individual congregations, and the loss factor in both.  What is being projected will come as a shock to many -- everyone from the cultural Christians who believe a thin veneer of Christianity is good for us all to those who yearn for the good old days of the early decades of the past century.  It should not come as a shock to people who read the Scriptures.

Jesus asked "when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”  Jesus repeatedly warned that the institutions of government and the illusions of earthly power and influence were neither our comfort nor our hope.  We would be shackled and brought before the powers that be and we would face persecution and threat, division in our households, and false prophets who lie in His name.  All of this is conveniently forgotten when Christians imagine themselves to be an earthly power or kingdom.  But we are reminded over and over again that you cannot put your trust in earthly powers or kingdoms or flesh and blood rulers.  It was and has always been Christ alone.  This is not some halfhearted consolation prize we have to settle for — this is our confidence.  For with this comes the promise.  The devil cannot prevail.  We cannot lose what Christ has already won.

We have no game to win for God but only faithfulness to show.  He who endures to the end does not sound like we will enjoy an earthly triumph over our enemies — at least in the moment.  We will, however, enjoy the heavenly victory.  What Christ won was for us and His victory is ours by faith.  This was and is our hope -- not some position of power or advantage among earthly institutions but the real and enduring life that death cannot steal, the devil cannot trouble, the old Adam cannot fight, sorrow cannot afflict, disease cannot mar, and despair cannot touch.  It is for this we contend and not a super majority status.  Numbers have always been our temptation and often our undoing.  We ought to be counting the flock to keep them rather than counting the flock to judge our position against those not of the Kingdom.  Speak the Gospel boldly.  Worship faithfully.  Pray confidently.  Teach (catechize) diligently.  It will be enough for God even if it may not change the Pew Research Study model.


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