Something is happening in the life of the traditional church and it does not look good. Documentaries, books and studies have unveiled that there have been major changes in the pattern of church attendance in the last few years. The Gallup Organization reported, “Only 44 percent of Americans have confidence in the church or organized religion.” A Barna study showed that there has been a rise of churchlessness in America from 30% in the 1990s to 33% in the 2000s to 43% in 2014 with 33% of once active church goers no longer going.
Throughout the country and it is assumed even more so after the election of the 45th President, church people and church attendance have become unpopular and membership has been rapidly decreasing. What is even more interesting is that the trend is holding true no matter the location, denomination, worship style of a particular church, age groups or race. A 2014 Pew Study revealed that:
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.
The data confirms what many involved in ministry for years have been seeing if they are paying attention. The moral, social and spiritual lives of people in the United States is charging. Due to this change, church plants and smaller churches are struggling more than ever to even reach growth that can make them self-sustainable. Even mega-churches are losing their popularity because the constant need for money to maintain property and personnel for Sunday “performances” as they are viewed by many of those leaving the church is being questioned more and challenged outright with less giving. People are asking themselves what is the real purpose of the church? Pastors are asking themselves how can I revitalize the church? Observers who care about the future of the church are asking why are people leaving the church and can anything be done about it?
Certainly, there is a crisis being faced by the American church and a course of action needs to be taken. Not necessarily because the survival of the church as we know it is in danger (although it is) with church closings, pastoral firings and resignations, reduced budgets due to less money in the coffers but to try to be preventive instead of reactive. In researching this dilemma, the questions that arise, “What action needs to be taken so people don’t feel the need to leave their spiritual community?” and “How can a faith community address the concerns of those who already left?” The attempt to answer these questions can help churches of any structure think through what they can do and perhaps provide a model that will help people come back to the church, never leave the church, give church a try for the first time. Or better yet, find a way to introduce people to God without having them have to “do” traditional church at all or at first.
Churchlessness in America is happening at a fast pace. What are the causes? The few studies done thus far suggest that people are leaving because they don't see the church "being" the hands and feet of Jesus on a regular consistent basis yet they are always asking for money. Others say that they have formed little to no relationships in the church and if they did, they ended up being very badly hurt either by leadership, the pastor or other members. Finally, some have left because they said in order to keep their faith, they needed to leave the church.
Some pastoral leaders have their hands full with the ones that show up to their church and are not even paying attention to the ones on the fringes. In a very real way, the millions that have already left the church feel that they much rather BE the church and form non-traditional faith communities than go through the motions of church as usual and not feel connected to God, to people or to their communities. Stay tuned to what I find out as I will post here for those who care to have these populations on their radar.
 Bruce Nolan, “Gallup reports new low in religious confidence,” Religion News Service, July 16, 2012, accessed March 10, 2017, http://religionnews.com/2012/07/16/gallup-reports-new-low-in-religious-confidence/
 George Barna and David Kinnaman, Ed. Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (Illinois: Tyndale Momentum. 2014), Kindle. 48.
 Pew Research Center, “2014 Religious Landscape Study,” June 4-September 30, 2014, accessed March 10, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/
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