What is the state of the church in America? Recently, WKRN News 2 in Nashville ran an 11-minute story not only about the decline in church attendance in the U.S., but also included some hopeful indicators for the future of churches in America. What do these facts mean for those of us launching Church Requel in Mansfield? Here is the video news clip, provided by Ed Stetzer on Vimeo. For those who can't invest 11 minutes to watch, scroll down for my written highlights and conclusions.
Here are my written highlights from the video of the state of Christianity in America today:
- The church has lost its "home field advantage" in the United States.
- In 1948, 91% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. In 2009, only 76% of Americans claimed Christianity as their faith.
- Of teenagers in high school who do attend church now, 2/3 will drop out when they move away from home.
- Not all churches are in decline, but the vast majority (70-80%) are either plateaued or are in decline.
- The number of "Nones" are growing fast. Who are the Nones? Those people who have no denominational affiliation. When asked, "What is your religious identity?" 15% of people in America answered "None." That's twice the number who answered "None" in 1990.
- The "Nones" are the 3rd largest faith group in America!
- Last April, Newsweek asked: "Can faith answer all or most of the country's problems?" Just 48% answered, "Yes." That's lower than any other time the magazine asked the question in the past.
- Nondenominational, independent churches are growing fast. In 1990, fewer than 195,000 people in American attended these nondenominational churches. Today, it's 8 million!
So how do we apply this at Church Requel in Mansfield? Click "Continue Reading" below to find out.
In the business world where I spent my former career, we would routinely ask questions about our own industry. Any good businessman must know the environment in which he operates. Is the industry growing? Plateaued? In decline? Are there some companies that are doing well? Why? What can I learn from them?
Now as the pastor at Church Requel, I think it makes sense to ask these same questions about Christianity in the U.S. Clearly the number of people who claim Christianity as their faith is in decline. But it would be wrong to suggest that we are now in a post-Christian environment. Three out of four Americans still call themselves "Christian," even if many of them no longer regularly attend any church.
The fastest growing segment of faith in America are the "Nones" - those who claim no particular denomination, or in some cases claim no particular faith. This appears to be more a rejection of religion than it does of Christ. The fact that the number of people who attend nondenominational churches has skyrocketed from 195,000 in 1990 to 8 million people today should tell us that people are still interested in hearing the good news of Christ - just not from the traditional denominational sources of America's past.
Mansfield is filled with churches. Sadly many of them have more empty seats than filled ones. Church Requel was founded to attract the "Nones" mentioned in the video - those who for one reason or another have given up on church altogether.
Many things about Church Requel are nontraditional for that very reason. We meet at Mid-Ohio Conference Center - a public place with no religious or denominational affiliation. We meet on Sunday evenings rather than on Sunday mornings. We employ a "come as you are" clothing policy. (This doesn't mean clothing is optional... but the kind of clothes you choose to wear is optional.) The music we sing reflects a contemporary style familiar to most newcomers. And the teaching is more of a conversational style than a preaching style.
It is not our desire to empty pews but to empty couches. Our competition are not other churches but the media cultures of the television and the internet. Our objective is not to reach the already committed, but to reach those "Nones" referenced in the video segment. If the national statistic of 15% claiming no denominational preference were applied to the 125,000 folks who live in Richland County, then that means there would be almost 19,000 people who could very well be attracted to a church like Church Requel. And that's a group of eternal souls worth fighting for!