According to a recent survey and article posted on abc.com, America is becoming “both less Christian and less religious. The percentage of Americans who define themselves as Christian has dropped from 86% in 1990 to 76% in 2008. 15 percent of Americans say they have no religion, a figure that has almost doubled in 18 years. Meanwhile, the number of atheists has nearly doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 million.” The article goes on to state that just because “people are dropping out of organized religion, that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning faith.” One person made the comment that while “I no longer attend church, I still pray to Jesus.”
Why do you think this trend is occurring?
A 2009 post on the Mockingbird blog quoted William Donohue, president of the Catholic League as saying he thinks”a radical shift towards individualism over the last quarter-century has a lot to do it. The three most dreaded words are thou shalt not,” he told Lou Dobbs. “Notice they are not atheists — they are saying I don’t want to be told what to do with my life.” The person writing the blog wrote, “Perhaps if American Christianity was more about Grace for sinners and less about telling people what to do, more about God’s “yes” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:19) and less “thou shalt not”, people would be more interested in going to church…”
Personally, I find that to be one of the positives of belonging to the “Congregational Way of Life.” For the most part, I am glad not to have a higher-level organization handing me a book of rules to follow. I’ve already got one, thank you. It’s not that I don’t find value in rules – I just don’t like to be told I HAVE to do something just because someone (another human) decides that’s what’s best for me.
As for there being more “Yes” than “Thou shalt not’s” … my study Bible explains that “all of God’s promises of what the Messiah would be like are fulfilled in Christ – he is the divine ‘Yes!’ Jesus was completely faithful in his ministry, he faithfully died for us and now he faithfully intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 4:14, 15).
So, again I ask, why do you think this trend is occurring? Why do people think not participating in a worship service is not something they want to do? What can we do within our community to start reversing this trend?
As for the comment, “I no longer attend church, but I still pray to Jesus” – there is a time and a place for solitary worship or mediation. I know some people say they don’t need to be in church because they are outside “communing with God and nature” while they’re off doing a multitude of outdoor activities. That being said, I love having our Church-in-the-Woods services each year. We are meant to enjoy nature and God’s handiwork.
I did a search for “organized worship as opposed to solitary worship” (or something like that), and I was brought to a web site that had a few lines that I liked. They said, “Corporate worship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It is a time to get together with our God without distraction. It is a group time. It is family time! And He is here!” (“For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20)
We are meant to be together – to decipher, to discuss, to grow in God’s word – together. We are meant to be together … to encourage one another, to share with one another, and to be part of God’s family together.
“America is Becoming Less Christian, Less Religious,” by Dan Harris, March 9, 2009; Cyberservant; Mockingbird