Baptist Press reported May 12 on findings from a Pew Research Center study that indicate the number of Christians in America has declined by almost 8 percentage points since 2007.
The story also indicated that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults (commonly referred to as “nones) increased by almost 7 percentage points over the same time frame.
That begs the question, “Why?”
I’m not a math major (that’s why I became a journalist; didn’t have to take as many math courses in college) but 8 percentage points reflects a huge number of people within the Christian community.
There are probably several reasons for the decline. Among them are a natural decline by death, a lack of evangelism, and what I fear the most, apathy, along with a fear of standing up for one’s beliefs in a culture that looks down upon Christianity.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, does not believe that Christianity is dying but he did note in the Baptist Press article that it is becoming “less nominal, more defined, and more outside the mainstream of American culture.”
He wrote in a recent blog, “For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself ‘Christian’ is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as ‘Christian’ according to their convictions are starting to identify as ‘nones’ because it’s more culturally savvy.”
We are living in a day and age where Christians are afraid to speak up and stand boldly for their convictions. Christians are caving to culture. And, we are paying the price.
The numbers will continue to decline unless we, as Christians and Tennessee Baptists, get out of the pews and into the marketplace. We must live our faith so people see a difference and be willing to build relationships so we can earn the right to share the gospel.
Tennessee Baptists adopted Five Objectives during their annual meeting last November. The first one is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by the year 2024.
I encourage Tennessee Baptists to embrace that goal. It will go a long way in reversing the decline in those identifying as Christians. If we are seeing people saved, baptized, and then discipled to be followers of Christ, they will remain faithful and help win others to faith in Christ.
The disturbing trend cited by the Pew Research can be reversed. Are we up to the challenge?