A recent article that dealt with church attendance made mention of a study done in an Ohio county in the 1990’s.1 Apparently two independent studies of the same population gave significantly different results. One survey was a self-reporting survey which indicated that 36% of the population attended at least one service each week. But when a firm was hired to conduct the same survey of the same population, it reported that only 20% of the county attended at least one service per week.
When the results were published, there was much speculation as to why some “over-report” their attendance. It was suggested that it indicated “a certain psychological aspect” on the part of Americans who view polling questions about their attendance as questions about their identity.
According to the polling agency, it seems that they are not attempting to be deceitful; instead, they are “over-reporting” in order to “maintain perceptions of themselves as ‘churched’ Americans.” In other words, if brother Johnson tells others that he attends worship services at least once each week, he can still think of himself as being faithful and not feel guilty about being unfaithful. The inspired writer has a strong word of wisdom for this culture: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).
The same article indicated that the nation with the highest percentage of weekly worshipers is the African nation of Nigeria (89%). By comparison, the United States is 43% while the former Soviet bloc nation of Poland is 63%. By the way, the motto of Nigeria is “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress,” Poland does not have a national motto, and the United States motto is … does anybody remember?
The article also reported that church attendance in developed countries is gradually declining. Researchers attribute the decline to two factors: (1. boredom during services and (2. incompatibility with the belief system. It is to be assumed that boredom is self-professed. Would anyone long remain a part of any institution if they felt it a waste of time? What is your position regarding worship? Is it boring? Do you find yourself coming in late, leaving early, making frequent trips to the foyer, bathroom, etc. during the service? Is your iPad your entertainment for the hour? How long will boredom allow a person to continue on? Has the faith or doctrine of the church fallen out of favor? Are the commands of Scripture regarding worship, marriage, morality, setting a Christian example, etc. become too distant from who you really are?
The article also indicated a study done in Switzerland in 2000 which indicated that the religious practice of the father of a family determines their children’s religious practices in the future. If both father and mother are faithful, 33% of their children will also be faithful as adults, and 41% will be at least somewhat faithful. But if the mother is faithful and the father is not, the study indicates that only 3% of their children will be faithful as adults. “In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).”
Maybe we do put too much emphasis on numbers, but then I think about Abraham bargaining with God for the sake of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. Numbers are important, but if we go by the numbers today, we ought to be realizing how much trouble our nation is in – one family at a time.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013