Church membership has been majorly tanking for the last 20 years. About 70% of Americans were members of congregations in 1999. Now it stands at 50%. Catholics fell from 76% to 63%. Protestants dropped from 73% to 67%. Democrats from 71% to 48%, and Republicans from 77% to 69%.[i] That describes the flight from congregations. And it’s endangering the health of many churches. Some may not be able to survive in the current model. But there’s something more sinister going on. The flight away from religious belief across society. As documented by a headline in the Brown Journal: “Americans Who Claim No Religion Has Risen 266 Percent in Three Decades.” Surveys show that “Catholics account for twenty-three percent, Evangelicals account for twenty-two percent of the US population, and those who ascribe to nothing account for twenty-three percent.”[ii] Scripture warns us. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1Timothy 4:1)
This passage describes the gradual falling away that has afflicted the Church almost from the beginning. Then about the middle of the 18th century, the pace of this falling away began to quicken with the onset in European circles of something called ‘Higher Criticism’. As this methodology of Bible interpretation gained steam, it called into question the long accepted and historically sound, foundational doctrines of Christianity. This is especially prevalent among ministers of some of the mainline Protestant denominations. Surveys have shown that a minority of Christian ministers in these bodies believes in the very foundational truths of Christianity as presented by the Scriptures. Segments of the Church are ignoring and sidestepping clear Biblical teaching on the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the reality of the Resurrection, the existence of a hell, and the nature of sin. The Catholic Church has imposed its own man generated doctrines on its adherents, – even where they clearly contradict the dictates of Scripture.
Then there are the segments of the population that have bought into the myths advanced by Dan Brown and the DaVinci Code crowd absolutely denying Christ’s divinity and thereby rejecting the saving power and true purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Others have adopted a ‘Cafeteria Christianity,’ that combines Buddhist beliefs, or yoga or goddess worship, or whatever with some selected Christian beliefs and passages. They argue only sincerity matters! But Christ’s teachings are clear. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Add to that the current Pope’s embrace of Islam and admitting atheists into Heaven – and you have the complete destruction of the truth of the Gospel.
[i] Poll: Church membership in US plummets over past 20 years, AP, April 18, 2019
[ii] Nate Brown, By the Numbers, The Brown Journal, March 2019