The next time you want to amaze someone with an impressive bit of trivia, consider asking this question: “What is the 8th largest population in the world?”
Even with a smart phone and instant access to Google, they are not likely to get the correct answer. They’ll be thinking in terms of self-governing nations, and so will the search engines they employ. Actually the 8th largest population, according a survey published by the Barna Group in December 2014, is the unchurched in America! They define that term as an adult who has “not attended a Christian church service, other than a special event such as a wedding or a funeral, at any time during the past six months” (Faith & Christianity, Dec. 10, 2014).
Now that you’ve got their attention, ask another question. “Do you know what the percentage is of those who are unchurched today in comparison to 10 years ago?” In just the last decade, the number of unchurched adults has increased by more than 30%— or by about 38 million people. To put that in perspective, that is more than the entire population of Canada or of Australia!
Now that you have hijacked the conversation and made everyone in the room uncomfortable, go for the gold! “Of the 156 million Americans who are unchurched, what percentage of them once did belong to a church?” If you still have any who will make eye contact with you by this time, be gentle. They’re already feeling pretty bruised. But still, you need to tell them that about 76% of the “unchurched” are in reality “de-churched.” In the past 10 years, the number of people who have stopped all affiliation with any denomination whatsoever has increased to the point that three of every four people who once considered themselves “a church-going Christian” no longer do.
Those figures, as depressing as they are, do not indicate a similar trend within our churches—right? Let’s see. In your extended family, how many of the 18 to 30-year-olds attend church services on a regular basis? Are you sure about that number? How many of your own children and grandchildren, within that age bracket, are faithful? In the congregation that you attend, how many of the young adults who have gone off to college are no longer faithful?
We can delude ourselves into thinking that our culture won’t claim our children, but it will! It already has. Today, the parents of elementary to high school-aged children within the church, find themselves constantly being pulled by others to be somewhere other than with the family of God on the Lord’s day. The numbers are beyond dispute. Parents who drop off their children for a Bible class, but won’t attend one themselves, are foolish to think their children will act differently when they can make their own adult choices. Parents who take their children to an event (sports, concerts, etc.) rather than to an evening service will not have to be humbled later by children who are more faithful—it just doesn’t work that way. And because the church is itself a family, we see the same trend in the spiritual family. Parents have delegated the responsibility to teach their children God’s word to Bible class teachers. But they don’t bring their child to class. Adults have delegated responsibility for their own spiritual growth to the elders and the minister, but they don’t attend opportunities for growth. In some locations, the elders have stopped attending services except for the bare minimum of Sunday morning attendance. Has culture affected us? It has, and it is!
OUR CHALLENGE is: 1.) As a person, stop being influenced by the world and return to God in every measurable way; 2.) As a parent, say as Joshua once did—“as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” and do so in every measurable way. Our nation is ripe for another Great wakening. If God blessed it with one today, could you—by your current choices and behaviors—lead this generation back to God?
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016