The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan think tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They do a lot of polling. Recently they released their poll about the changing religious landscape in America and the news is not good but it may be in line with what Pastor Chan is saying in Crazy Love.
Let’s wonder about those numbers.
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. That’s the bottom line but let’s parse the numbers a little. First of all, this research is based on a poll that was conducted with 35,000 Americans. If you know anything about polling, that is a respectable number. If the poll was conducted properly, the conclusions mean something from a sample size that big.
The drop in Christian religious affiliation was 8%, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Where have the people gone? The poll states: “the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.”
“The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. . . . The United Methodist Church (UMC) continues to be the largest denomination within the mainline Protestant tradition. Currently, 25% of mainline Protestants identify with the UMC, down slightly from 28% in 2007.”
What is wrong with Church?
Some of you will think that this is crazy but church is not very important for most people today. What is important? Our leisure time. Leisure time and the options for filling it today are phenomenal. We work so hard and don’t have a focal point. When the weekend comes, it is not a priority to devote some time to God. We are too selfish and want to do what we want to do, even if that means sleeping in on Sunday. Pastor Chan says “ We see Him [God] as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be in the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers.”
That’s the problem in a nutshell.
We don’t want to give Him all of us.
I suspect that the attitude that many followers in mainline churches have is that God is ok to believe in, as long as He is in His place and He does not impede their further activities. For people who are searching for something to believe in, this attitude does not seem authentic at all. People who believe this don’t exhibit any sign that they are different from any other person walking down the street. People who are searching for something to believe in want to see someone who is different, someone who is real, someone who is committed.
Or they just give up and become “unaffiliated.”
Pastor Chan says that “most of us know that we are supposed to read our Bibles and pray so that we can get to know Him better; that we are supposed to worship Him with our lives. But actually living it out is challenging. It confuses us when loving God is hard.”
But sometimes it is.
He demands so much but it is the demanding that makes us experience the blessings that He has in store for us. You see God does not need us. We need Him. We read the results of the Pew Poll and think God needs us in his house of worship so the numbers will be better. God needs us serving on the food line at Micah Mission Center. God needs us giving money to missions. Today we think we are more important than we really are but God is on His throne.
Pastor Chan says He is holy, eternal, all knowing, all powerful and fair and just.
We are the one who has needs to be met and we try everything except God to meet those needs.
What a waste of time.
In my opinion, if church was a place where people truly worshipped, left church and lived out their faith throughout the week, others would flock to the church because they would realize the church is doing a great job of making the world a better place. The unchurched would say “where can I get some of that ‘religion.’”
God is ok to believe in, as long as He is in His place and He does not impede my further activities. That kind of attitude will continue the decline.
One day we will look back on today and wish the drop was only eight per cent.