Churches across America will be filled with record crowds again this Easter. The same mass filling of church seats happens at Christmas. However, consistent church attendance and participation have been declining for the last 30 years according to George Barna, renowned researcher of church and Christian behavior. America’s Christians in increasing numbers, especially millennials, are rejecting the church and choosing to practice their faith outside its influence. So, is the church not as important as it once was?
The chart below depicts Barna’s recent finding that almost three-quarters of Americans identify as Christian. It is not politically correct today to state that we are a Christian nation, but truly we are. Six percent are of other faiths, and 20 percent claim no faith.
Only slightly more than half of those claiming to be Christians attend church consistently. The Barna chart below shows that almost half of America’s proclaimed Christians practice their faith in ways that don’t involve church. In this graphic, “churched” are those who have attended church frequently in the past six months. “Unchurched” are those who have not attended church at all in the past six months.
I am somewhat encouraged that 73% of Americans profess to be Christians. However, I suspect that many of those see Christianity as characteristic of being American or being associated with a church rather than having a committed relationship with Christ–the true definition of Christianity. On the other hand, I am deeply concerned that almost half of those identifying as Christian hardly ever attend church. I believe this trend is dangerous for America.
Churches should not be considered institutions like civic clubs, labor unions, or affinity groups that are losing popularity and not purposeful in our lives anymore. Churches are absolutely essential to living out our lives as followers of Christ. Jesus attended and even spoke in the synagogues setting an example for us. After his resurrection, He spoke of establishing His church on the faith of His followers. His apostles, including Paul, preached and ministered in the church. Thousands of the earliest Christians gathered each Sunday in the churches throughout the Mediterranean nations. God’s strategy for our worship, spreading the gospel, and ministering to others is centered on the church. We are fooling ourselves if we believe we can please God and serve Him by trying to follow His teaching and act on it outside the fellowship of other believers. We are created to worship with others, pray with others, minister to others and be ministered to by others, study the Bible with others, and subject ourselves to the accountability of others. This is why God established the church through Jesus Christ. We cannot expect God’s fullest blessing on this nation if we do not honor His direction to be a part of His church.
Churches are not perfect, because the people in churches are not perfect. But, just as we stay committed to an imperfect family, we should stay committed to an imperfect church family. The church is not established by God to fulfill all of our needs. It is established as God’s plan for us to serve the needs of others with fellow believers.
If you are one of the unchurched, or only an Easter-Christmas attender, I strongly urge you to begin consistent church participation. It will change your life for the better, enhance your family’s life, and contribute to the healing of America.