More Americans are skipping church. Are you one of them?

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted August 06, 2018

What is killing faith across the United States—at least as measured by attendance at religious services? If a recent study from the Pew Research Center is to be believed, it involves higher education and, surprisingly, political affiliation, among other factors.

Looking at why Americans do or do not participate regularly, the Pew study reported a variety of reasons why some are skipping out on worship. Some 28 percent of those surveyed saying they don’t attend worship on a consistent basis are, simply, not believers. But 37 percent selected “I practice my faith in other ways” as an explanation.

Of those who say they’re non-believers, seven out of ten were under the age of 30, which could be a concerning trend for the future of churches.

Perhaps most surprising were the educational levels and political ties of those who don’t attend. According to a Pew summary of the survey, “More than half of those who do not attend church or another house of worship for reasons other than nonbelief are women, and they tend to be older, less highly educated and less Democratic compared with those who do not go because of a lack of faith. Meanwhile, those who refrain from attending religious services because they are nonbelievers are more highly educated and largely male, young and Democratic.”

On the other side of the equation, roughly 80 percent of those who say they attend worship “at least once or twice a month” do so to “become closer to God.” Approximately “two-thirds say they attend religious services to give their children a moral foundation, to become better people, and for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow,” Pew reported.

Although the survey, which canvassed 4,729 adults in the United States, is viewed as statistically sound, there’s no way to determine the attitudes of each respondent. And the survey did not address questions of doctrinal drift among religious bodies—Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant—which have seen segments in each faith adopting more relaxed positions on moral issues, driving away some worshippers. Between 1966 and 2015, the Episcopal Church in the United States lost half its membership, including a 12 percent drop between 2006 and 2015.

There is one sign of hope: African-American Millennials, Pew said in a separate survey, are more faith-focused than others in their age cohort. Pew reported, “38 percent of black Millennials say they attend religious services at least weekly, just a quarter (25 percent) of other Millennials do this.”

But for a nation whose religiosity has long been a subject of fascination for the rest of the world—going back to 19th-century French observer Alexis de Tocqueville—a marked decline in church attendance is a concerning sign. For Christians especially, faith is not intended to be a solitary practice. Participation in worship as a community is expressly commanded in the New Testament. Believers are told to “not [forsake] the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another,” as we read in Hebrews 10:25.

Some people believe they can be good Christians without attending church. Pastor Doug has already addressed this kind of thinking, which you can read by clicking here. Let us know in the comments below what you think about this trend—has it affected you?

For other people, the issue might be one of having lost what the Bible calls their “first love” (Revelation 2:4). If that describes you—or someone you know—check out Pastor Doug's powerhouse revival series “Oh For Revival!” You can find it by clicking here.

We hope these messages will warm “cold hearts” and bring people back to regular worship!


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