America’s Changing Religious Landscape: An Assessment of The Pew Center Report

No need to panic about the Pew report; looking more deeply into the study shows some encouragement

American Evangelical Churches on the other hand continue to grow: Unlike theologically liberal mainline churches, the children of evangelicals are far more likely to embrace the tradition of their parents, also, unlike mainline denominations Evangelicals are still experiencing conversion growth. So the good news is that the wheat continues to be wheat, and the tares are just now more clearly seen for what they have always been. Nominal Christianity is dying even as real Christianity continues on as it always has.

 

Don’t Panic: The recent Pew study that shows a huge and accelerating decline amongst the number of Americans identifying as “Christian” has been a cause for celebration amongst secularists – who see it as proof their century long campaign is finally bearing fruit – and panic amongst Christians who see it as evidence of the same.

But what is really going on? If you look more deeply into the study you’ll find 2 things:

  1. As we’ve known for years: Mainline, theologically liberal denominations are dying. Millennials raised in nominally (in name only) Christian churches and denominations see no reason to remain in the churches of their ancestors, their social needs are met elsewhere and there is no longer any cultural stigma to not attending church. Rather, the opposite is now the case, attending church is frowned upon both by secularists and by secular conservatives, especially because mainline churches are for the most part heavily feminized and politically liberal. Simply put, a male secular conservative or libertarian has no reason whatsoever to attend an Episcopal or UCC church on Sunday morning, and as a result they don’t. The same is true of liberal Catholic churches, they’ve simply become culturally irrelevant.
  2. American Evangelical Churches on the other hand continue to grow: Unlike theologically liberal mainline churches, the children of evangelicals are far more likely to embrace the tradition of their parents, also, unlike mainline denominations Evangelicals are still experiencing conversion growth.

So the good news is that the wheat continues to be wheat, and the tares are just now more clearly seen for what they have always been. Nominal Christianity is dying even as real Christianity continues on as it always has. The bad news is that having a minority population of fervent Christian believers in the midst of population mostly made up of secularists has always historically been a recipe for persecution. The good news there is that persecution is usually a means by which Christ winnows and grows his church.

Andy Webb is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Providence PCA in Fayetteville, NC. This article appeared on his Facebook page.



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