Saturday, October 27, 2012

The rise of the "Nones"

In early October, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a study confirming what many concerned believers and pastors have known for sometime: more and more Americans are increasingly disaffiliating from organized religion.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults,” the report reveals. Furthermore, the report found that one-third of adults under 30 do not see themselves as members of any religion, compared to one in 10 among people 65 and older.

What does this mean for the future of the church in North America? Pessimists will hear this and think the sky is falling. The church has lost its influence and role in society; the religious landscape will increasingly resemble European nations, where religion is an after thought for many. Churches will struggle to fill their pews. 

But there is another way to view this report. This might actually be a good thing for the church to be relegated to the margins of society. The cozy church-state relationship is now sundered and we may finally be able to declare civil religion dead--spelling the end of fuzzy Christendom religion.

America as a pre-Christian society enables the church to pattern itself after first century Christians who, under great hardship, learned how to live gospel-centered lives in a majority pagan culture. The contrasts between light and darkness were stark and therefore the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ sounded like foolishness to the ears of unbelievers ( I Corinthians 1:18).

That's not a bad thing. It just means we can jettison fuzzy, easy-believism (invite Jesus into my heart) and for the church of Jesus to finally, and without shame say, Jesus is Lord; take up your cross and follow him. 

The church of Jesus Christ now has a chance to reflect what authentic, submitted, sacrificial commitment to Jesus looks like. It means we must now depend on Christ's power to change human hearts and minds and less on the church's location, music, and other superficial means of reaching people. If this is the future of the church in America, I am in!